The Information Society: A Sceptical View
June 2002, Polity
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.
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.
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.
- 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
"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