Knowledge society

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term knowledge society describes a social formation in highly developed countries, in which individual and collective knowledge and its organization are increasingly becoming the basis of social, economic and media coexistence. However, basically every social system is based on knowledge. The analytical value of the term “knowledge society” is controversial. The term is closely related to the terms information society and network society as well as the massive use of digital media associated with digitization , datafication and the Internet .

History of the term

The concept of the knowledge society was used by the American political scientist Robert E. Lane in 1966 ( knowledgeable societies ). Daniel Bell , American sociologist , popularized the concept of the knowledge society in 1973 with his study The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. A Venture in Social Forecasting . He tried to show that theoretical knowledge was the most important resource in post-industrial society , while labor, raw materials and capital played the central role in industrialized societies. According to Daniel Bell, the structural change in society on the economic level can be observed in the development towards the service economy and in cognitive terms in the inclusion of science and knowledge work in production itself.

As one of the first economists, Peter Drucker coined the terms “salaried society” (1950), “knowledge and brain workers” (1960) and “knowledge society” (1969). Based on Michael Polanyi's work , The tacit dimension from 1966, and its core statement, “that we know more than we know to say”, the actual basis for a substantive discussion of the type, creation and utilization of knowledge as a resource is opened been. The differentiation between “ implicit knowledge ” and “ explicit knowledge ” is one of the main approaches.

The transition from the industrial to the knowledge society cannot be precisely timed. From the 1950s and 1960s onwards, various thinkers diagnosed a structural change within the social and economic order that should be at least as significant as the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society . The generation, use and organization of knowledge were seen as central sources of productivity and growth. However, the classical social science literature already points out that industrialization already presupposes a knowledge-based society in which a de-traditionalized, more systematic approach to knowledge is practiced.

Karl Marx, for example, sees the systematisation, scientification and mechanization of operational and social knowledge as a means to the end of capitalist structures of rule. In the course of a comprehensive analysis of European intellectual history, Max Weber refers to the predictability and calculability of economic processes as indicators of a rational economy. In the course of this, he focuses on bureaucracy as a special form of dealing with knowledge, which he analyzes as rule through knowledge. The connection between knowledge and power or knowledge and its legitimacy was later examined by Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard .

In contrast to the discussions of the 1960s, the debates on the knowledge society from the end of the 20th century also problematized the global character of the rationalization processes observed and the increase in ignorance in knowledge production and the associated uncertainties, risks and paradoxes.

Based on Helmut Willke , the buzzword of the knowledge society is increasingly used by political parties and interest groups around the year 2000 . The fact that more and more people have access to more and more knowledge calls into question the government's knowledge of domination and enables a democratization of political decision-making processes through the participation of informed citizens in civil society .

Knowledge economy

At the European level, the idea is reflected in the so-called " Lisbon Strategy " within the framework of an economic and social policy aimed at increasing competitiveness . Here are rankings made for economies, distinguishing between "research-intensive production" and "knowledge-intensive services" can be distinguished.

Since the knowledge society assumes immaterial capital instead of the utilization of fixed physical capital, which can no longer be measured using traditional methods (product unit per unit of time), according to André Gorz, the appropriate economy for a knowledge society would be knowledge communism . What is required is not formal, retrievable knowledge, but forms of living knowledge, such as empirical knowledge, judgment, self-organization, etc. Not the hours worked, but rather the “behavioral component” and “motivation” are considered to be decisive value creation factors. Such factors are economically referred to as human capital . In this context, “ motivation ” means getting involved with oneself and producing oneself, while the behavioral component mentioned relates to customers, but also to internal cooperation.

In this context, Pierre Veltz (* 1945) draws attention to the fact that it is not the work performed by the individual that is decisive, but the quality of communication in the production system. So human capital does not arise individually in a vacuum, but develops under cultural framework conditions as general knowledge that is passed on in primary socialization . According to André Gorz, living knowledge as a source of added value does not produce anything tangible. Rather, it is the work of the subject producing itself as an activity.

Three sector model

3-sector model

While just under 2% of employees are still working in agriculture today, it is just under 25% in manufacturing. The majority of the working population is employed in the service sector.

In the 1970s, the trend began that in almost all western countries jobs were cut in industry and created in the service sector. This change is less pronounced in Germany than in other European countries, in which there is sometimes talk of de-industrialization. But in Germany, too, the share of manufacturing in gross value added has decreased from 37 percent (1971) to 23 percent (2011). In the UK, the proportion was only 11 percent in 2011. The EU average is 15.5%.

It is expected that the manufacturing industry will stabilize with an employment rate of 20%.

Productivity has increased sixfold since the mid-1960s. At that time, almost 50% of the employees in Germany were still active in industry. Even Germany is no longer a classic industrialized country and the traditional parts of the service sector are also losing weight, while the new, knowledge-based services are becoming the dominant economic segment.

Four “sectors” model

4- "Sector" model

The rapid growth and the implementation of information technology led to a discussion about the emergence of a "fourth sector", the "information" sector at the turn of the millennium. In the meantime, there is no longer talk of a separate sector, but of an information "area" in which the employees of all sectors are presented whose professional activity is intensively related to information.

While a few years ago there was still talk of the information society , which should inherit the industrial society , there is now consensus that the replacement of the industrial society can be described more appropriately by the term knowledge society.

Characteristics of the knowledge society

The knowledge society replaces the predominance of the industrial society.

"Western society is in the transition from an industrial to a knowledge society, which in its dramatic effect is in no way inferior to the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society in the 19th century."

The essential thing about the knowledge society is that not only is the service sector growing the most, but that the knowledge factor is also becoming the decisive growth driver in industry. The task today is increasingly not to use the physical product e.g. B. to sell a car, but to satisfy the mobility needs of customers. The machine does not represent the actual value, but what it is able to achieve. In addition, the product is z. B. More and more about software via the assistance system. Where and by whom z. B. a cell phone is produced, has become irrelevant today. The knowledge of the needs of the target group and the construction have become an essential factor. And so many economic processes increasingly require spontaneity, creativity and personal responsibility.

This makes economically usable knowledge the “most important raw material” of the future.

In Germany , on March 1, 2018, the law to align copyright law with the current requirements of the knowledge society (UrhWissG) came into force. This law is intended to adapt the regulations for the permitted use of copyrighted works in education and science to the conditions of digital transformation .

A knowledge society is also characterized by the fact that as many citizens as possible have prerequisites that allow them to use the information on offer critically and without restriction in order to be able to form their own judgment in the sense of a reasonable argument.

Transitions from the industrial to the knowledge society :

Physical capital Knowledge capital
Hierarchy / control Networking / focusing
vertical communication horizontal communication
sequential processes simultaneous processes
Products Problem solving

Knowledge work is characterized by the fact that the relevant knowledge:

  • continuously revised,
  • permanently seen as room for improvement,
  • is in principle not regarded as truth, but as a resource and
  • is inseparable from ignorance.

Knowledge work aims:

  • on knowledge generation, this aims
  • on innovation, this
  • on securing and strengthening the competitiveness of companies under the tougher requirements of globalized markets.

With increased knowledge, so does not-knowing. This is accompanied by a higher level of uncertainty and a decrease in the ability to forecast. This uncertainty is triggered not least by the expectation that the change associated with the knowledge society will have no end and that one's own knowledge will have to be constantly revised.

The knowledge society should not be confused with a science society. Rather, the relevant knowledge consists of both scientific information and empirical knowledge.

Change of living and working conditions

A mutual reinforcement of the knowledge society and globalization can be observed. Due to the migration of increasingly complex production processes, western countries are in a position to look for their own added value more and more in processes, ideas and creativity. The physical product is increasingly becoming a commodity (German: mass goods, standard article). Capital and raw materials are being replaced more and more by knowledge, although the latter has yet to be proven, because it is currently more likely that knowledge does not replace the previous material products, rather the production of goods has so far still increased in absolute numbers.

Globalization is accompanied by the abolition of spatial distances, which leads to increased global competition for innovation and location.

As a result of this intensification of competition, the call for high performers is getting louder and the gap between the low and the highly qualified will continue to grow. The "emergence of new forms of inequality" is seen in a certain way as collateral damage to the knowledge society. The relocation of low-skilled jobs means that almost 60 percent of all workplaces in Germany could be replaced by machines, software, processes and robots.

Investments in education are becoming one of the key factors, because the knowledge society drives us to develop new skills. Constantly new reforms of the education and training system drive teachers and learners to additional performance.

“The talents of tomorrow are the fuel for the future development of the economy.” In combination with increased global mobility, this leads to the war for talents combined with the need to increase loyalty to one's own employees. At the same time, an increase in atypical and precarious employment can be observed.

"Open Access" ( OA ) is the order of the day. Thanks to the internet, the digitization of world knowledge has begun without anyone knowing how to organize knowledge globally on the internet.

The changed information offer, information competence and information behavior have an impact on needs and habits. In many industries, parts of the value chain are being shifted to customers. At the same time, it tries to make the knowledge of its own customers usable in development.

For companies, the need for constant change will mean that they work more closely with external specialists.

Even with many dependent employees, time and place for doing the job are becoming less important. This puts the previous understanding of organization, management and leadership under pressure. The learning organization is called once more and the workforce is called on to “fundamentally and repeatedly question the existing”. The companies are called out by their trade associations, the "question marks must really be wanted from above " and it is demanded that "the call for immediately visible results" no longer has a place, but that instead of action and symbolism strategic goals and stable structures now are the order of the day.

The German work and economic culture is generally having a hard time with the knowledge society and its possibilities, especially because industrial production is about changing German core competencies.

Hopes and fears

It is hoped that the many social challenges that humanity is facing - such as the enormous global environmental threats - can be solved with the help of the knowledge society. This is a task previously assigned to the technology-oriented departments of science.

Daniel Bell already had many longings associated with the knowledge society, who expected an "end of ideology ". Ralf Dahrendorf is quoted as saying that "an age that was shaped by the rough laws of industry is coming to an end".

Today there is a longing to “rediscover true values” and the expectation that society will turn mainly to spiritual and intellectual “goods”. And so that this comes into focus, it is advertised that now that we are at the “entrance to the knowledge society”, the “right time for a discussion of values” would be.

“We are currently witnessing how more and more services are being converted into industrially manufactured systems and consumer goods.” In this respect, industrial logic is not giving way to a knowledge society, but is even being extended to the service society.

For the time being, it is also not expected that the orientation towards gainful employment will wane. The number of employees could increase even further, but the subjective importance of work will tend to decrease for many compared to other life tasks and activities. However, there is a risk that parts of the workforce could feel overwhelmed by the knowledge society.

See also


Literature in general

  • Anina Engelhardt, Laura Kajetzke (Hrsg.): Handbuch Wissensgesellschaft. Theories, Topics, and Problems . transcript, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8376-1324-7 .
  • Thomas Auer, Wolfgang Sturz (Ed.): ABC of the knowledge society . doculine Verlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-9810595-4-0 .
  • Gernot Böhme , Nico Stehr : Knowledge Society . D. Reidel Publishing, 1986, ISBN 90-277-2305-2 .
  • Peter Burke : Paper and market cry. The birth of the knowledge society . Wagenbach, Berlin 2001.
  • Richard van Dülmen , Sina Rauschenbach (ed.): Power of knowledge. The emergence of the modern knowledge society . Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2004.
  • Alexander Filipovic, Axel Bernd Kunze (ed.): Knowledge society. Challenges for Christian Social Ethics . Lit, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-8258-7038-3 .
  • Karsten Gerlof, Anne Ulrich: The constitution of the knowledge society . Heinrich Böll Foundation (ed.). Westphalian steam boat, 2006, ISBN 3-89691-619-X .
  • Martin Heidenreich: The debate about the knowledge society . (PDF; 118 kB). In: Stefan Böschen, Ingo Schulz-Schaeffner (Hrsg.): Science in the knowledge society . Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 2003, ISBN 3-531-13996-7 , pp. 25-54.
  • Bernhard von Mutius : The transformation of the world. A dialogue with the future . 2000, ISBN 3-608-94271-8 .
  • Helmut F. Spinner : The knowledge order . 1994.
  • Helmut F. Spinner: The architecture of the information society . 1998.
  • Nico Stehr: Modern knowledge societies . (PDF; 96 kB). In: From Politics and Contemporary History . 36/2001, pp. 7-14, BpB
  • Nico Stehr: Work, property and knowledge: On the theory of knowledge societies . Suhrkamp, ​​1994, ISBN 3-518-58187-2 .
  • Nico Stehr: Knowledge Societies . Sage, 1994, ISBN 0-8039-7892-8 .
  • Nico Stehr: The Fragility of Modern Societies. Knowledge and Risk in the Information Age . Sage, 2001, ISBN 0-7619-5348-5 .
  • Nico Stehr: Knowledge and economics. The social foundations of modern economy . Suhrkamp, ​​2001, ISBN 3-518-29107-6 .
  • Peter Weingart : The moment of truth? On the relationship between science, politics, business and the media in the knowledge society. Weilerswist, Velbrück 2001.
  • B. Kossek: Knowledge society and knowledge generation. Lecture at the University of Vienna, 2009. (Accessed February 10, 2010)
  • JW Lehmann: Knowledge society, universities and eLearning. University of Bern, 2010.
  • A. Borrmann, R. Gerdzen: Cultural techniques of the information society . D. Reidel Publishing, Leipzig 1996.

Critical literature

  • Uwe H. Bittlingmayer: Knowledge society as will and idea . uvk, 2005, ISBN 3-89669-525-8 (critical of ideology and based on Pierre Bourdieu )
  • Uwe H. Bittlingmayer: Late Capitalism or Knowledge Society? (PDF; 100 kB). In: From Politics and Contemporary History . 36/2001, pp. 15-23, BpB .
  • Michael Gemperle, Peter Steckeisen (Ed.): A New Age of Knowledge? Critical contributions to the discussion about the knowledge society . Seismo, Zurich 2006, ISBN 3-03777-045-7 . (critical empirical and theoretical studies on the reality content and the social and political function of the term)
  • André Gorz : Knowledge, Value and Capital . Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2004.
  • Hans-Dieter Kübler: Myth Knowledge Society . VS Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-531-14484-7 .
  • Konrad P. Liessmann : Theory of Uneducation. The errors of the knowledge society , Zsolnay, 2006, ISBN 3-552-05382-4 .
  • Roland Mugerauer: Educational spaces for the “knowledge society”! Pedagogical-philosophical labels for modern technologized societies, including recent findings from qualitative, empirical research on education and teaching. In: Journal of New Frontiers in Spatial Concepts, Volume 1, 2009, ISSN 1868-6648, pp. 167-181 ( full text ; accessed March 29, 2020).
  • Heinz Steinert: New flexibility, new standards. The reliable person of the knowledge society . Picus 2005, ISBN 3-85452-514-1 . (The book focuses on the exclusion debate)
  • Robert B. Laughlin : The Crime of Reason - Deceiving the Knowledge Society. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 2008, ISBN 978-3-518-26002-9 .
  • Torsten Junge: Governmentality of the knowledge society. Politics and subjectivity under the regime of knowledge. transcript, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-89942-957-2 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Christian Geyer: Where is the Promised Land? Jürgen Rüttgers leads the CDU through the desert of the knowledge society. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . May 13, 2000. Jürgen Rüttgers : Turning point, turning point - The year 2000 project: The knowledge society. Siedler Verlag, 1999, ISBN 3-88680-678-2 .
  2. ^ Helmut Willke : Supervision des Staates , Frankfurt am Main 1997.
  3. Research- intensive industries: top position for Germany. Seven questions for Heike Belitz. In: DIW Berlin weekly report. No. 9, 2010. (PDF; 201 kB).
  4. Jürgen Gausemeir, Hans Kurt Tönshoff (ed.): Migration of added value. Acatech, May 8, 2007. (
  5. a b c Johannes Geffers: On the simultaneity of career continuity and discontinuity in IT. Dissertation. Free University of Berlin, June 23, 2014. (
  6. a b c d e f Andreas Poltermann: Knowledge society - an idea in reality check . Federal Agency for Civic Education, September 9, 2013. (
  7. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Gerhard Willke: Globalization and knowledge society, effects on gainful employment and social security. In: Michael Bröning, Peter Oesterdieckhoff (Hrsg.): Germany in the global knowledge society. Expert opinion of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, 2004. (
  8. a b c d e f Wolf Lotter: Shift change, Industry 4.0, change to a knowledge society. In: Brand one. June 25, 2015. (
  9. a b Werner Dostal: The computerization of the world of work. Communications from labor market and occupational research, 1995. (
  10. ^ A b Hans-Liudger Dienel: Economy and politics in the knowledge society, comparative findings and recommendations. In: Michael Bröning, Peter Oesterdieckhoff (Hrsg.): Germany in the global knowledge society. Expert opinion of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, 2004. (
  11. Verena Metze-Mangold: Knowledge society as an idea of ​​the new humanism. German UNESCO Commission, YouTube video, running time: 1:10 hours, see 6:30 minutes at the point, June 8, 2015. (
  12. Verena Metze-Mangold: The transition from the information to the knowledge society. German UNESCO Commission, July 23, 2012. (
  13. a b c d Change management in the information and knowledge society: Ten challenges and opportunities for companies and consultants. Change Management Association, Federal Association of German Management Consultants BDU, September 3, 2015. (
  14. BMJV | Current legislative process | Law to align copyright law with the current requirements of the knowledge society (UrhWissG). Retrieved June 22, 2018 .
  15. ^ Peter Stützle: German Bundestag - Science Barrier in Copyright . In: German Bundestag . ( [accessed June 22, 2018]).
  16. a b c d Elke Gruber: Knowledge Society: Fashionable Concept or Productive Reform Approach in Adult Education? 2002. (
  17. a b c d e f g Joël Luc Cachelin: Building sites of the knowledge society. In: Knowledge Factory. January 4, 2013. (
  18. a b c Reinhold Leinfelder: In the past, the future was also better - Part 2: The knowledge society. In: SciLogs. January 23, 2014. (
  19. Norbert Arnold: What does “knowledge society” mean? Konrad Adenauer Foundation, November 2012. (
  20. Challenges of the knowledge society. In: if - Journal for Inner Leadership, Bundeswehr. No. 3–4, 2009. ( ( Memento from March 9, 2016 in the Internet Archive ))
  21. a b Christiane Bender: On the rise and fall of the knowledge elite. Deutschlandfunk, March 24, 2013. (
  22. ^ Roland Berger: Megatrend: Global Knowledge Society. September 22, 2015. (
  23. ^ A b c d e Joël Luc Cachelin: Building sites of the knowledge society, study. In: Knowledge Factory. January 4, 2013. ( ( Memento from March 9, 2016 in the Internet Archive ))
  24. Hans-Liudger Dienel, Gerhard Willke: Summary. In: Michael Bröning, Peter Oesterdieckhoff (Hrsg.): Germany in the global knowledge society. Expert opinion of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, 2004. (
  25. Thomas Köster: What we know ... The long road to a knowledge society. In: Fluter - magazine of the Federal Agency for Civic Education. September 30, 2013 (first published by the Goethe-Institut). ( ( Memento from March 9, 2016 in the Internet Archive ))
  26. a b Christiane Bender: The birth of the knowledge society from the spirit of the Cold War. Federal Agency for Civic Education, April 23, 2013. (
  27. a b Wolf Lotter: Resubmission. In: next, the magazine for pioneers. Price Waterhouse Cooper, undated ( ( Memento from June 20, 2017 in the Internet Archive ))