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Kasper Zülow

The Control Crisis

One of the most beautiful designed website dedicated to James R. Beniger’s book: The Control Revolution.

Beniger traces the causes of change from the middle to late ninteenth century — to a crisis of control — generated by the industrial revolution in manufacturing and transportation. The response to this crisis amounted to a revolution in societal control. Initially this control was in the form of bureaucracy, but after WWII it has shifted toward computer technology. But such technologies are best seen not as causes but as consequences of societal change, as natural extensions of the Control Revolution already in progress.

“Because both the activities of information processing and communication are inseperable components of the control function, a society’s ability to maintain control– at all levels from interpersonal to international relations — will be directly proportional to the development of its information technologies”.

Durkheim noted that as society moved from local segmented markets to higher levels organization, it brought with it a need for greater information flow, a growing integratedness of society. His anomie resulted from a breakdown of communication across increasingly isolated sectors.

Bureaucracy was the first big answer to this crisis of control and information. It is a control technology in itself. Weber identified another control technology he called rationalization. “Weber’s writing… are subsumed by one essential idea — control can be increased not only by increasing the capability to process information but also by decreasing the amount of information to be processed”.

“Perhaps the most pervasive of all rationalization is the increasing tendency of modern society to regulate interpersonal relationships in terms of a formal set of impersonal and objective criteria… By means of rationalization it is possible to maintain a large-scale, complex social systems that would be overwhelmed by a rising tide of information they could not process were it necessary to goven by particularistic considerations of family and kin that characterize preindustrial societies.”

Control technologies permitted bigger production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services in society. One major result of the control revolution has been the creation of the Information Society. Agricultural society has been replaced by knowledge workers.


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Kasper Riis Zülow