From Industrial to Knowledge: The Shift to Immateriality

The shift to immateriality has been foretold for many decades, yet is now a common depiction of the current job market. This transition from industrial to knowledge production is still shaping our nation, and many others worldwide. 

GRAPH: US Manufacturing employment decline. (Source: Macromon)

GRAPH: US Manufacturing employment decline. (Source: Global Macro Monitor)




From 1996 to 2006, high-tech manufacturing jobs in the UK declined from over 440, 000 to just 288, 000 (Bradwell & Peeves, p. 25). These jobs, however, are not limited to industrial production. In fact, many jobs that still utilise manufacturing or similar skill-based work are “based around a range of service and knowledge-intensive endeavours” (Bradwell & Peeves, p. 25).



This further argued by Kelly (1999):

“Presently a mere 18% of U.S. employment is in manufacturing. But three quarters of those 18% actually perform network economy jobs while working for a manufacturing company. Instead of pushing atoms they push bits around: accountants, researchers, designers, marketing, sales, lawyers, and all the rest who sit at a desk.”

It is evident how in the last two decades knowledge-based work is dominating the labour market of developed nations, as depicted in the graph by Global Macro Monitor above. 

As previously stated, this transition was not a unforeseen occurrence. 15 years ago, Kelly (1999) stated how our “new economy” will be a product of three factors, “It is global. It favors intangible things—ideas, information, and relationships. And it is intensely interlinked”. All three factors are an underlying features of our current economy. However, another key factor is the competitiveness within the international market. With a shift to immateriality, nations and businesses must compete for the most viable and economical intangibles.

With the emergence of neo-liberal policies amongst Western nations, there has been a measurable focus in internationalising many aspects of our economy, whether it be manufacturing, trade and especially technology. Education is another aspect that has been transformed due to the shift to immateriality. Even our current Liberal government, as discussed by Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, is considering education reforms that would seemingly allow Australian educations, with a focus in knowledge-based careers, to compete with other universities internationally (Triple J Hack, 2013). 

Australia’s knowledge-based production will consistently determine to continue it’s competitiveness, as some employers recognise that without a competitive edge, productivity and economic advancement will be hindered (CPA Australia 2013, p. 5).


Bradwell, P & Reeves, R 2008, ‘Economies’ in Networked Citizens, Demos, UK, pp. 25 – 31

CPA Australia 2013, Australia’s economic reform priorities, CPA Australia, viewed 20 August 2014, <;.

Kelly K 1999, New Rules for the New Economy, Penguin Books, viewed 19 August 2014, <;.

Global Macro Monitor 2012, U.S Employment in Manufacturing, WordPress, viewed 20 August 2014, <;.

Triple J Hack 2013, Education Minister Christopher Pyne on Hack, podcast, August 20 2014, Triple J Hack, viewed 20 August 2014, <;.



4 thoughts on “From Industrial to Knowledge: The Shift to Immateriality

  1. Love the presentation in this post, very professional and easy on the eye. Your take of this weeks topic is somewhat different to the norm, I like it. An interesting read, and I cant help liking anyone who incorporates the J’s in their post.

  2. I was considering writing about changes in education needed to prepare students for the knowledge age and was surprised at the early dates of some of the proposed amendments! It seems to have been a transition that we’ve been largely unaware of perhaps because of our age, though I do vaguely remember some computer training in year two. I was successful in finding some government documents presented in 2002 with arguments highlighting the importance of technological teaching for the knowledge economy but as with all things they must have slipped under the radar, or are still pending (

  3. Loved this interview when I listened to it, I too was very eager to hear what Mr. Pine had in store for the future of Australia’s digital industries; because as they stand right now I don’t believe we’re competing on an international level with what is being offered in other nations. Your post had a great format as well, several different media formats used to create an engaging post – convergent media isn’t easily lost on you! Well done.

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