Towards a Service Economy?

  • Jonathan Gershuny


Bell writes:

… if an industrial society is defined by the quantity of goods as marking a standard of living, the post-industrial society is marked by the quality of life as measured by the services and amenities — health, education, recreation and the arts — which are now deemed desirable and possible for everyone. The word ‘services’ disguises different things and in the transformation of industrial to post-industrial society there are several different stages. First … a necessary expansion of transportation and public utilities as auxiliary service in the movement of goods. … Second, in the mass consumption of goods and the growth of population, there is an increase of distribution, finance, real estate and insurance, the traditional centres of white collar employment. Third, as national incomes rise as in the theorem of Christian Engel … the proportion of money devoted to food at home begins to drop, and marginal increments are used first for durables and then for luxury items, recreation and the like. Thus a third sector, that of personal services, begins to grow; restaurants, hotels, auto-services, travel, entertainments, sports, as people’s horizons expand and new wants and tastes develop … two areas that are fundamental to [the good life] — health and education. (Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, pp. 127–8)


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (London: Methuen, 1961).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Table 4.1 involves some heroic assumptions about the continuity of categories and definitions, and each number in it is certainly open to question. The broad trends it shows do however seem to be the subject of agreement among economic historians, including the surprising constancy of the manufacturing employment proportion through this period. The manufacturing estimates in this table (its sources are given, as are those of all the tables, in the next section — Tables and Figures: Sources and Comments) agree with those of Deane and Cole (P. Deane and W. A. Cole, British Economic Growth 1688–1959 (Cambridge University Press, 1969) p. 144): In the first decade of the nineteenth century [the manufacturing group of industries] probably absorbed less than a quarter of the occupied population of Great Britain. By 1841 (perhaps by 1831) they had expanded their share to about a third, and from then until the First World War they grew, in numbers at any rate, more or less in step with the total British Labour force. They still claimed only a third of the labour force in 1911, but in 1921 their share reached 36 per cent, and in 1951, 39 per cent.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. Heilbronner, Business Civilisation in Decline (London: Boyars, 1976) p. 65: The great sectoral transformation of our times … has not been so much a shift from industry to services as a shift from agriculture to service tasks.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jonathan Gershuny 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Gershuny
    • 1
  1. 1.Science Policy Research UnitUniversity of SussexUK

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