Sociology Index


Symbolic-analysts are those who engage in what Robert Reich calls symbolic-analytic services. Robert Reich, argues that the key "job of the future" is that of the "symbolic analyst"

Symbolic-analyst is Reich's third occupational category and refers to tasks such as problem-solving, problem-identification, and strategic brokerage services. Symbolic-analytic services are all those jobs which involve the manipulation of symbols (data, words, oral and visual representations).

When we talk of symbolic-analyst, we are referring to a particular form of service worker, which others might call ‘knowledge work’, and is seen as the area of substantial growth in the developed capitalist nations of the world. Reich also believes that symbolic-analysts, due to the nature of their work, develop distinctive life styles and social attitudes and political beliefs.

The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism by Robert B. Reich
According to Harvard economist Reich, author of The Resurgent Liberal ( LJ 8/89), we are going through a historic transformation that is rearranging the politics and economics of the 1990s and the 21st century. Economies are no longer simply national in scope but global, rewarding the most skilled around the world with ever greater wealth while consigning the less skilled to declining standards of living. He sees the global work forces as already divided into three groups: routine producers (e.g., data processors), in-person servers (e.g., librarians), and symbolic analysts who manipulate symbols for large profits (e.g., financial wizards). In 1989, these analysts comprised about one-fifth of the population of the United States, but they earned more than half the income.

The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy by Robert B. Reich, Review
"Reich is a big thinker and a great writer." The Washington Post
A valuable work. . . . Reich has a talent for mastering economic and social complexities and making them easy for the layperson to grasp.-  The Wall Street Journal
"A well-researched and documented analysis of the present state of working life in America." The Plain Dealer
Reich writes in ways unusual for an economist; he is self-effacing, witty and more interested in exploring the world's complexities than in uncovering unvarying laws. - The New York Times

“Fast-Capitalism: Paraethnography and the rise of the symbolic analyst” Douglas R. Holmes with George E. Marcus. In Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Perspectives on the New Economy. Melissa Fisher and Greg Downey (eds). 2006 Durham: Duke University Press. 

"You asked the question about is the knowledge worker the same as a visual intellectual. I would say no. I would say there are so many terms for that. I always like the obscure terms like symbolic analyst. Lawyers are symbolic analyst. Engineers are symbolic analyst. In other words the symbolic analyst is pretty much anybody who doesn’t make his living making steel." - CADRE Invitational Transcript - Peter Lunenfeld - Switch | Journal -- Issue 18.