In their ‘millennial’ reflections on the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, many sociologists see technology as the impetus for the most fundamental of social trends and transformations. Indeed, understanding the role of technologies in the economy and society is now central to social theory. While there are a variety of social theories that proclaim the radical transformation of society all contain, at their core, claims about technological change and its social impact. This is as true of the three paradigmatic theories of the transformation that Western societies are undergoing – the theories of the information society, post-Fordism and postmodernity – as it is of more recent theories of globalization. Much emphasis is placed on major new clusters of scientific and technological innovations, particularly the widespread use of information and communication technologies, and the convergence of ways of life around the globe. The increased automation of production and the intensified use of the computer are said to be revolutionizing the economy and the character of employment. In the ‘information society’ or ‘knowledge economy’, the dominant form of work becomes information and knowledge-based. At the same time leisure, education, family relationships and personal identities are seen as moulded by the pressures exerted and opportunities arising from the new technical forces. In this process, technocratic discourse, globalization and free
market economics coalesce into an extremely powerful ideological force.
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