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6 Examples of an Industrial Complex

An industrial complex is a socioeconomic concept that views elements of society and industry as being combined in a large superstructure. This implies that elements of society or the human experience have become overly industrialized and has negative connotations. In particular, industrial complexes are viewed as cold systematized commoditization of things that require human compassion. The following are illustrative examples.

Military-Industrial Complex

The term military-industrial complex was popularized by President Dwight Eisenhower in his Jan. 17, 1961 farewell speech. Eisenhower was a rare five-star rank General of the Army who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe in WWII. His use of military-industrial complex implied that the American economy had become oriented towards the production of war as opposed to other goals such as quality of life. In the context of the Cold War, this term was commonly used to denote an existential threat whereby economies were oriented towards building things that could effectively destroy the planet.

Prison-Industrial Complex

A criticism of nations that produce large industries based on security, surveillance, policing and prisons. Also used as a more specific criticism of the privatization of prisons and other public security services -- a situation that may cause perverse incentives.

Medical-Industrial Complex

The theory that societies view an increasing number of things as medical conditions. For example, a society that views political opposition as a medical condition. Medical-industrial complex is also used to denote medical systems that measure everything in dollars while neglecting human outcomes or as a general criticism of medicalization.

Academic-Industrial Complex

The theory that schools and universities are oriented to the needs of industrialization or that student debt is designed to create servitude to industrial production.

Social-Industrial Complex

The theory that industry creates commodities that are substitutes for genuine human experience. For example, a television show where you feel you almost know the characters such that it serves some social need.


The term industrial complex is often used to describe over-commercialization of the human experience. For example, wedding-industrial complex as a criticism of overspending on weddings with the implication that industries encourage people to feel bad about fugal weddings.

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