23rd January 2013
In the past, political struggles were largely fought over how to divide up the spoils generated by the basic productive economy; labor, investors and management all shared a belief in the ethos of economic growth, manufacturing and resource extraction.
In contrast, today’s new hegemons hail almost entirely from outside the material economy, and many come from outside the realm of the market system entirely. Daniel Bell, in his landmark 1973 The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, may have been the first to identify this ascension to “pre-eminence of the professional and technical class.” This new “priesthood of power,” as he put it, would eventually overturn the traditional hierarchies based on land, corporate and financial assets.
Forty years later the outlines of this transformation are clear. Contrary to the conservative claims of Obama’s “socialist” tendencies, the administration is quite comfortable with such capitalist sectors as entertainment, the news media and the software side of the technology industry, particularly social media. The big difference is these firms derive their fortunes not from the soil and locally crafted manufacturers, but from the manipulation of ideas, concepts and images.