n Mousaion - The 'information society' : a critical assessment




In this article the author attempts to assess both the analytical and evaluativeclaims of the 'information society' thesis. There are two different viewsregarding the speed and extent of change brought about by information andcommunication technology (ICT) in society. At one extreme, currentdevelopments are seen as a continuation of the past, while acknowledgingthat substantive changes, both qualitative and quantitative, are taking placein society. At the other end, authors such as Daniel Bell and Manuel Castellsdeclare that a fundamentally new kind of society (i.e., an 'informationsociety') is emerging, in which information and communication technology(ICT) has an all-pervasive revolutionary potential. Both strands in the debateaccord information a special place in understanding contemporary society,but differ with respect to their perception of the relationship betweentechnology and social change. It is the contention of this article that we aresimply witnessing the effects of a new and powerful technology on<I>historically determined social structures</I>. The sum of the changes inherent inwhat proponents refer to as the information society, which supposedlyamounts to a shift beyond industrial capitalism, is at best debatable. It seemsmore a matter of faith than hard evidence.


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