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The Information Society: A Sceptical View

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2684-0
208 pages
June 2002, Polity
The Information Society: A Sceptical View (074562684X) cover image
In this timely new book, Christopher May surveys some of the most influential and important writings that declare we are entering a new information age. It is frequently asserted that this will bring about a social transformation and that the character of work is being transformed by the widespread deployment of information and communication technologies. In a similar manner we are told the world of politics is changing, with new communities emerging which will alter the practices of politics in profound and novel ways, and which will significantly reduce the role of the state and government. Each of these claims is subjected to a detailed critique.

Christopher May suggests that while there have clearly been some major and important changes prompted by the information technology revolution, these are often changes only in the forms of activity and not their substance. The information age represents some marked and important continuities with previous social practices, rather than the overthrow of all that has gone before. This sceptical view balances and moderates the often hysterical celebration of the new information society – a celebration which, the author argues, often lapses into an apologia for modern capitalism.

The Information Society will be of particular interest to students in sociology, politics, political economy, media and cultural studies and information studies.

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Acknowledgements.

Preface.

1. What is the Global Information Society?.

The Idea of an Information Society.

Four Central Claims about the Information Society.

2. Locating the 'Information Age' in History:.

The New Age.

Technological Determinism and the Information Age.

Lewis Mumford and Technological History.

Marx, Capitalism and the Information Society.

The Informationalization of Society.

3. Information Capital, Property and Labour:.

The Transformation of Work.

Statistics and the Information Society.

What is Service Work?.

The End of Work as We Know it?.

The Continuity of Property Relations.

(Information) Labour in the Global Economy.

4. Communities, Individuals and Politics in the Information Society:.

Politics in the Information Age.

(New) Political Communities.

Images, Gifts and Information Politics.

Individualism in the Information Society.

Communicating Politics.

5. W(h)ither the State?.

Early Views of the State in the Information Age.

Sidelining the State.

'And Still it Moves'.

Globalization, the Information Society and the State.

A Death Frequently Foretold.

6. Back to the Future:.

Shortcomings of Technological Forecasting.

The Dual Dynamic of Information Society.

Sceptical yet Hopeful.

Appendix: Intellectual Property.

References.

Index
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Christopher May is Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy, University of the West of England.
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  • Gives a concise and critical analysis of the debates surrounding the information society

  • Provides an overview of the current literature and the theoretical background to these debate

  • Distinctive skeptical argument deflates some of the more speculative claims associated with the idea that we are entering a "new" information society

  • In particular, takes issue with the claim that social and political transformations are imminent
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"A powerful analysis of our contemporary world which systematically debunks the hyperbolic and deterministic claims that are endlessly repeated about the role of new technologies in society . . . With candour and clarity, and through the use of examples, May provides alternative interpretations by analysing the complex realities of contemporary change." Stephen Graham, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

"A very engaging, even pungent, and highly accessible book. It will be a very useful student text for those who are willing to be challenged in their thinking about "the information society"."Frank Webster, University of Birmingham


"It's refreshing to read an argument that is sceptical about the wider claim being made for digital technologies but which also acknowledges the new centrality of the collection, production and dissemination of information to our economy and culture. The Information Society [ital] is a sober audit of the real state of play, and a convincing retort to those who argue digitalisation will undermine all previous power structures, rendering the state and old forms of work obsolete." Tribune

"This book offers a clear overview of the developments of ICTs and their impact on society...It is a substantial text that provides a different and thought-provoking viewpoint. It will find its way onto the shelves of academic and public libraries, as well as the personal libraries of many professionals with an interest in the information society." Managing Information

"It is highly recommended for anyone who has felt uneasy about the hype which has been generated about "the Information Society" and the "Knowledge Economy", and on a broader plan, for anyone who is concerned with social change." Martin Ward, E.Learning Age

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