Since ancient times, new knowledge and new inventions have periodically remade human societies. Today, however, knowledge is assuming greater importance than ever before. Now more essential to the wealth of nations than either capital or labor, Peter Drucker argues here, it has already created a "postcapitalist" society and promises further transformations on a global scale.
In only 150 years, between about 1750 and 1900, capitalism and technology conquered the globe and created a world civilization. Neither capitalism nor technical innovations were new; both had been common, recurrent phenomena throughout the ages in both the West and the East. What was new was the speed of their diffusion and their global reach across cultures, classes, and geography. And it was this speed and scope that converted technical advances into the Industrial Revolution and capitalism into Capitalism. Instead of being one element in society, as all earlier expressions of capitalism had been, Capitalism--with a capital C--became society. Instead of being confined, as always before, to a narrow locality, Capitalism prevailed throughout all of Western and Northern Europe by 1850. Within another 50 years it spread throughout the entire inhabited world.