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In this chapter, I will demonstrate the astounding result that this knowledge society I speak of already strongly contributes to shape and model the contemporary civilization in a way that is not recognised by the most citizens. The underlying structure of civilization is changing because the means of production is changing.
The sociologist Karl Marx33 was the first to show the importance of the production tool for society’s architecture. When the tool of production is changed, all production relations are transformed, and the relationships between human beings changes in depth. Ultimately, it is the vision (the ”Weltanshaaung” or “paradigm”) that is changed, and the basic values and the societal structures are transformed.
At the end of the Middle Ages—the beginning of the modern industrial era—when society moved from the agrarian production tool (earth and agrarian technologies) to the industrial production tool (machines, technology, and capital), the whole horizon of values was toppled over, including the relationship to time, space, and the divine.
Peter Drucker was one of the first writers with the courage to question the validity of capitalism in the knowledge society in his very famous book Post-capitalist Society. The book begins with this powerful passage34:
“Every few hundred years in Western History, there occurs a sharp transformation… Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself—its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their parents were born.
We are currently living through such a transformation. It is creating the post-capitalist society, which is the subject of this book.” (p. 1)
He also says:
“…We are far enough advanced into the new post-capitalist society to review and revise the social, economic, and political history of the Age of Capitalism and of the nation-state. …The one thing we can be sure of is that the world that will emerge from the present rearrangements of values, beliefs, social and economic structures, of political concepts and systems, indeed of worldviews, will be different from anything anyone today imagines. In some areas—and especially in society and its structure—basic shifts have already happened. That the new society will be both a non-socialist and a post-capitalist society is practically certain. And it is certain also that its primary resource will be knowledge.” (p. 4)
Now, before our eyes, the rapid replacement of the industrial tool by a new one is occurring. The traditional “factors of production”—land (that is, natural resources), labour, and capital—have not disappeared, but they have become secondary. They can be obtained easily as long as there is knowledge. And knowledge in this new sense means knowledge as a utility—as the means to obtain social and economic results.
These developments, whether desirable or not, are responses to an irreversible change. Knowledge is now applied to knowledge. Supplying knowledge to find out how existing knowledge can best be applied to produce results is, in effect, what we mean by management. But knowledge is now also being applied systematically and purposefully to define what new knowledge is needed, whether it is feasible, and what has to be done to make knowledge effective. It is being applied, in other words to systematic innovation35. As Drucker says,
“That knowledge has become the resource rather than a resource, is what makes our society “post-capitalist.” This fact changes—fundamentally—the structure of society. It creates new social and economic dynamics. It creates new politics.” (p. 45)
Ces messieurs ont appelé dame Bess, dit-il; mais dame Bess n’est pas au cottage