Title: The twilight of hierarchy: speculations on the global information society
Author: Harlan Cleveland
Address: Professor and Dean, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Abstract: The paper examines the consequences of the ''informatization'' of society, a term originated in France which describes what is happening to some of our key concepts and conceptions as the convergence of computers and telecommunications makes information the dominant resource in post-industrial society. The inherent characteristics of information provide some clues as to what that portends for the future. Information is expandable, is not resource-hungry, is substitutable, transportable, diffusive and can be shared. We will make trouble for ourselves by carrying over into our thinking about information, concepts developed for the management of things (property, depletion, depreciation, monopoly, unfairnesses in distribution, geopolitics, the class struggle and top-down leadership). Because we can no longer rely on old assumptions, the new information environment is likely to modify our inherited thinking about rule, power, and authority. In the past the inherent characteristics of physical resources made possible the development of hierarchies of power based on control, hierarchies of influence based on secrecy, hierarchies of class based on ownership, of privilege based on early access to valuable resources and of politics based on geography. These five bases for discrimination and unfairness are crumbling today and will force changes in some long-standing hierarchical forms of social organization. Information technologies will be assimilated without turmoil only if scholars recognize the need to rethink their disciplines in light of the erosion of societies based on material resources and industrial production, if citizens get used to the responsibility that goes with the influence and power almost casually available to them through access to information, and if generalist leaders are able to rethink the nature of leadership.
Keywords: information technology; informatisation; hierarchies; post-industrial society; social organisation; global information society; technology management.
Int. J. of Technology Management, 1987 Vol.2, No.1, pp.45 - 66
Available online: 27 May 2009