About the Book

The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society is a book published by the Harvard Press in 1986 written by sociologist James R. Beniger (date of birth and death). It is a cornerstone of communications theory and describes the progression of society from the beginning of the 19th century all the way to the mid 20th century with a focus on information.

The two main questions, which Beniger asks in the control revolution are the following:

1. Why should it be information, embracing both goods and services, that has come to dominate the world’s largest and most advanced economies?

2. Why now? Why has it only recently emerged as a distinct and critical commodity?

Beniger makes a strong argument that the information society as it has become known is directly rooted in the industrial revolution and the ensuing crisis of control brought on by new inventions and a lack of control over them. Thus Beniger synthesizes the concepts of information processing and control. The Control Revolution is described by Beniger as follows:

“a complex of rapid changes in the technological and economic arrangements by which information is collected, stored, processed, and communicated, and through which formal or programmed decisions might affect social control. (vii)”

Beniger also makes the claim that the information society is not rooted in one particular event, such as WWII or the commercial development of television or any other particular technological development but much rather in a progression of events that lead to a necessity for information processing to become the central pillar of society due to a lack of control.

The resolution of the crisis of control continues to this day and continuously faces new crises of control as new technologies emerge, improving the industry on the one hand but introducing a new set of problems requiring more and more information processing and thus more control.