Information Society: A Second “Great Transformation”?

Peter Fleissner


Usually one characterizes contemporary capitalism as acting on global markets, production dominated by transnational companies, with an important role of financial capital, and backed by neoliberal ideologies. But for an appropriate assessment of the emerging information society this is not sufficient. The author proposes to emphazize the economic content of the information society by two essentially new features: commodification and commercialisation of many areas of human activities. Culture, knowledge, arts, research, entertainment are globally conquered by the market. Commodification and commercialisation have always ambiguous effects. While on the one hand Intellectual Property Rights and a technology of copy protection generate artificial shortage of the nowadays superfluous digital goods (because in principle they could be distributed nearly for free to everybody on the globe), commodification and commercialisation can also lead to new goods or services and a better quality of products. This trend of commodification and commercialisation of human culture can be compared by extension and importance to the commercialisation of work during the first half of the 19th century in England which was described by Karl Polanyi in his well known book „The Great Transformation“ (1944). There he located the basic transformation of a capitalistic economy into a capitalistic society.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; social studies; Wittgenstein Ludwig; commodity; information society; labor theory of value; productive labor; service; surplus product; surplus value; unproductive labor; value consuming labor; value creating labor

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