As many observers see it –and have for more than 30 years now– the so-called industrialized societies are all travelling in the shorter or longer term towards a post-industrial order in which services will supplant productive activities. Yet, as Pierre Veltz shows here, that may not be how the future will pan out. Contrary to the thinking that sees industry as a thing of the past, to be supplanted by tertiary activities, Pierre Veltz outlines the emergence of a hyper-industrial model that consists in combining industrial production with service activities, thanks largely to digital technology and networked organization.
After recapping the development of the industrial world over a long period (in which leadership by Western countries is actually quite recent), Pierre Veltz presents the new industrial question from four angles: times and space (a world of hubs and networks, with enterprises between hyper-distribution and hyper-concentration); sources of performance (rise of transactional relations, but a need also for interpersonal relations and trust); forms of competition (the growing role of fixed costs and investment in design, access to networks, infrastructure etc.); and modalities of organization (increasing recourse to project teams and service provision).
The emergence of a hyper-industrial society of this kind represents an opportunity for France if it equips itself to become part of it, while taking account of the inherent dangers and ambivalence, such as the risk of hyper-polarization between high-powered decision-making and production centres and more specialized, sub-contracting territories, and the danger of a threat to salaried employment with reduced levels of employment protection. However, as Pierre Veltz sees it, France (like Europe in general) seems better placed in these areas than its American and Asian competitors to be able to combine innovation, security and solidarity.