Manuel Castells’ theory of network society

By July 18, 2017 Sociology

Manuel Castells is a sociologist often associated with information society and communications research. In this essay I will be measuring his theory on “ the web society ” , and sketching any relevant unfavorable judgments. By looking at Castells ‘ upbringing and influences it becomes clear how he came to be concerned with the theory of the web society. He was raised in Barcelona and was politically active in the pupil anti-Franco motion ; this political activism forced him to fly Spain for France. He finished his surveies in Paris and moved on to the University of Paris accomplishing a doctor’s degree in sociology. Having worked at both the University of Paris and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, he subsequently moved to California as he was awarded two chairs at Berkeley. Castells ‘ move to California was extremely relevant as he was located near to Silicon Valley, which was where the integrated circuit, microprocessor, personal computer and many other cardinal engineerings, were developed chiefly in the 80s. It has been the site of electronic invention for over four decennaries, sustained by about a one-fourth of a million information engineering workers. Influenced by the idea of Alain Touraine, Castells was a cardinal developer in a assortment of Marxist urban sociology that emphasises the function of societal motions in the conflictive transmutation of the metropolis. Exceeding Marxist constructions in the early 80s, he concentrated upon the function of new engineerings in the restructuring of an economic system. His theory of the web society is extremely relevant to us as we all belong to 1000s of webs, be it a school, a university, a nationality or an business, and all webs require some signifier of coordination.

Harmonizing to Castells, webs constitute the new societal morphology of our societies. He believes there is a extremist disjunction in modern-day society conveying about a greater sense of liberty due to engineering. Castells believes that “ we are go throughing from the industrial age into the information age ” ( Castells, 2000, 5 ) . He talks of how this historical alteration was brought approximately by the coming of new information engineerings peculiarly those for communicating and biological intents. He noted how infinite and clip are being transcended in societal practises due to the ability to make everything from everyplace thanks to the capacity for omnipresent ageless contact in communicating engineerings. “ A figure of major societal, technological, economic and cultural transmutations came together to give rise to a new signifier of society ” ( Castells 2000, 17 ) . Castells foremost mentioned the term “ web society ” in his book “ The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture ” which was the first portion of his Information Age trilogy. He claimed, “ The definition in footings of a web society is a society where the cardinal societal constructions and activities are organized around electronically processed information webs. So it ‘s non merely about webs or societal webs, because societal webs have been really old signifiers of societal organisation, it ‘s about societal webs which procedure and manage information and are utilizing micro-electronic based engineerings ” ( Castells, 1996, 34 ) . Simply put a web society is a society whose societal construction is made of webs powered by microelectronic based information and communicating engineerings. While he explains that webs are non a new signifier of societal organisation, they have become a cardinal characteristic of societal morphology, basically they are new signifiers of old procedures. He claims this is mostly due to communicating engineerings, for illustration the cyberspace or nomadic telephones, which increase decentalisation of operations and focussing of control which in bend addition the effectivity of webs relative to hierarchal constructions. “ Communication webs are the forms of contact that are created by flows of messages among communicators through clip and infinite, ” ( Monge and Contractor, 2003, 39 ) . “ The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture ” gives an history of the economic and societal kineticss of the new age of information. It demonstrates research done in USA, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Castells negotiations of how the planetary economic system is now characterized by the instantaneous flow and exchange of information, capital and cultural communicating. These flows order and status both ingestion and production. The networks themselves reflect and create typical civilizations. Both they and the information they carry are mostly outside of national ordinance. This means that society ‘s dependance on these new manners of informational flow can give tremendous power to those in a place to command them to command us, “ Networks have become the prevailing organizat ional signifier of every sphere of human activity ” ( Castells, 1996, 101 ) .

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To better understand Castells theory of a web society it is helpful to look back to his work of 1989, “ The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban Regional Process ” . In this work he mentions the infinite of flows which plays a cardinal function in his vision of the web society. Castells is an urban geographer, which is why his scrutiny of infinite is cardinal to his work. He describes the infinite of flows as a “ high-ranking cultural abstraction of infinite and clip with dynamic interactions to the digital age society ” ( Castells, 1989, 23 ) . He wanted to “ reconceptualise new signifiers of spacial agreements under the new technological paradigm ” ( Castells, 1989, 146 ) . He believed this was relevant in that it could be viewed as a new type of infinite that allowed distant, coincident, real-time interaction, unlike anything that has been about antecedently. So the infinite of flows plays a cardinal function in Castells ‘ vision of the web society, it is a web of communications, defined by hubs where these webs intersect. Societies are non attached to a specific topographic point but alternatively to the infinite of flows. He argues that “ while organisations are located in topographic points, the organisational logic is placeless, being basically dependent on the infinite of flows that characterizes information webs ” ( Castells in Ny & A ; Atilde ; ­ri, 2004, 23 ) . This infinite of flows trials what Castells negotiations of as the infinite of topographic points, which includes regional communities and state provinces. It can be seen that “ while the infinite of flows can be abstract in societal, cultural, and historical footings, topographic points are condensations of human history, civilization and affair ” ( Castells, 1990, 14 ) . In this manner resistance to the infinite of flows of assorted webs manifests itself in the signifier of communities based around topographic points. So while the infinite of flows consists of planetary circuits of information for illustration the cyberspace, the infinite of topographic points is dominated by determinations and has bounded districts or apparently fixed vicinities. Barry Wellman draws on Castells thoughts and believes engineerings have shrunk everything ; he talks of how communities have become planetary alternatively of local and are attached to technological non geographical links. Wellman says Castells observations have profound deductions for what community means in modern-day society. Through these definitions Castells developed the impression of dateless clip, which he saw as an index of societal alteration. He believed clip has become more complicated and sequences of life are going scrambled. Space and clip are cardinal experiences of societal life but are being transcended in societal practise, for illustration users of “ Skype ” can talk to each other in any figure of different states at any one clip and all communicating is instant.

For Castells, webs have become the basic units of modern society and so the web society can be seen to be more than merely the information society that was originally mentioned. Castells argues that it is non merely the engineering that characterizes modern-day societies, but besides cultural, economic and political facets that when combined can make the web society, “ Influences such as faith, cultural upbringing, political organisations, and societal position all shape the web society ” ( Castells, 1990, 86 ) . Societies can be shaped by these facets in a assortment of ways. Harmonizing to Castells, power now lies in assorted webs, “ the logic of the web is more powerful than the powers of the web ” ( Castells in Weber, 2002, 104 ) . Many webs today, for illustration fiscal capital, have become planetary in graduated table. Networks can play a cardinal function within concerns now, capital such as staff, advisers, and other concerns can be brought together to work on a particular undertaking, and when it is finished they separate and are reallocated to a new undertaking going connected to a new web. Although Castells is more concerned with the macro as opposed to the micro in society he admits it is of import to measure the abilities of histrions in the web whether it is a company, an person, the authorities or any other organisation. He determines engagement in the web by the degree to which the histrion can lend to the ends of that peculiar web. “ This new environment requires skilled flexible workers: the organisation adult male gives manner to the flexible adult female ” ( Castells, 2000, 12 ) . This creates a binary procedure of inclusion and exclusion from these webs where by the persons with small or nil to offer their web, are excluded. An of import facet of the web society is the links between the webs of people. Isolated webs are weak and being connected is a type of power. Belonging to more than one web is ever utile, nevertheless in the web society, because of the binary nature of exclusion, teamed with the fact that it is simpler to except, inclusion can be seen to give more power than it did antecedently. At the same clip though electronic communicating makes it much simpler to fall in a web, for illustration group emails or togss on societal web sites, which can alternatively devaluate inclusion.

Like most societal theoreticians Castells has attracted assorted unfavorable judgments sing facets of his theory of the web society ; for illustration his analysis of the function of information, production and the nexus between capitalist economy and informational labor. Many rebut his claim that the present economic and societal state of affairs is a new age, but alternatively is merely an extension of industrial capitalist economy. Many feel there is a danger for Castells in concentrating on the extremist freshness of the station industrial society, and overlooking cardinal continuities between it and past socio-economic formations. Dan Schiller argues that “ the chief economic thrust in web societies is still the desire to garner private capital ; the market jussive moods of competition and carbon monoxide alteration still rule, and the societal and economic inequalities characteristic of market economic systems tend to widen instead than shut ” ( Schiller, 2000, 48 ) . Both faculty members and critics such as Mitchell Kapor, laminitis of the Electronic Frontier Foundation have attempted to read Castells work but have given up due to its extended informations aggregation and deficiency of synthesis, “ It may be profound, but it is surely opaque ” ( Kapor, Internet Galaxy, 2008 ) . Professor Martin Kenney, a member of the module of Applied Behavioural Sciences at UC Davis who has studied the Information Age trilogy says, “ When Castells does pull decisions ; they can be so axiomatic that their precise significance can be elusive ” ( Kenney, Internet Galaxy, 2008 ) .

Both Webster and Garnham have accused Castells of technological determinism. The theoretical job Webster poses is the comparative liberty of the manner of development. The manner of development is spoken of as act uponing societal dealingss nevertheless is n’t determined by capitalist economy and Castells says it can last it, “ the new economic system may good outlive the manner of production where it was born ” ( Castells, 2000, 11 ) . Webster believes this implies that the manner of development continues on its ain technological logic so “ in cardinal respects, is beyond the range of political relations ” ( Webster, 2004, 17 ) , and hence feels in malice of Castells ‘ averments to the contrary, his theoretical footing is technologically determinist. Garnham ‘s unfavorable judgment focuses on productiveness. Castells states that the web society relies on increasing productiveness which occurs due to information engineering. Garnham says of this, “ there is small grounds of such productiveness additions ” and goes on to province, “ deficiency of a stable calculable relationship between the values of end products prevarications behind the historical troubles in carbon monoxide modifying information ” ( Garnham, 2004, 191 ) . Garnham besides states that productiveness can be looked at in footings of ingestion, investing and the dealingss of production. Both Garnham and Webster knock the apparently independent function of the manner of development, foregrounding alternatively the importance in finding the function of the manner of production, “ the informational manner of development is developed for and set at the service of a set of belongings dealingss and the end of accretion, non frailty versa ” ( Garnham, 2004, 174 ) . Webster and Garnham deliver converting reviews of Castells ‘ theory of a web society. I believe the web society is more realistically a development of our industrial society as opposed to a wholly new concept. Capitalism remains the economic footing for our society ; the rebellion of capitalist economy ‘s power in assorted webs is an event that was happening during Marx ‘s original review of our societal system in the nineteenth century.

In an article written by Jack Fischer, Castells says he has been frustrated at that place has non been more unfavorable judgment of his work on the web society. “ What unfavorable judgment at that place has been has referred to the comparative trouble of reading the work and of his inexorable refusal to offer prescriptions ” ( Fischer, Manuel Castells Brave New World, 1999 ) . Castells said on the affair, “ Equally arresting as it sounds, I am non cognizant of any major unfavorable judgment in published reappraisals, and I am cognizant of tonss of reappraisals in many states. In fact, it is a small spot dissatisfactory, since I am certainly there are many failings in the work, and I would wish to debate it more ” ( Castells in Fischer, Manuel Castells Brave New World, 1999 ) .

Manuel Castells theory of the web society is extremely relevant in understanding modern-day signifiers of societal interaction. “ It permeates most societies in the universe, in assorted cultural and institutional manifestations, as the industrial society characterized the societal construction of both capitalist economy and statism for most of the 20th century ” ( Castells, 2000, 22 ) . His analysis of the technological, cultural, and institutional transmutation of societies around the Earth to web societies provides utile penetrations into a invariably altering universe of communications. Castells hypothesises that there is small opportunity of societal alteration within any given web. He says himself that the cardinal quandary in the web society is “ that political establishments are non the site of power any longer. The existent power is the power of cultural codifications, embedded in webs ” ( Castells 2000, 25 ) . The thought of the web society makes us believe about how much of our lives depend on these engineerings, in an omnipresent web society we can interchange information and communicate with other distant people and machines untroubled by and sometimes even incognizant of the webs or devices leting such communicating. Castells theory of the web society is both prosecuting and advanced which is one of the grounds it has got so much attending. In a clip when our society is traveling through such intense and powerful transmutations, potentially traveling beyond an industrial epoch wholly, it is important to hold the work of Castells who paperss and analyses this of import passage though such work as his theory of the web society. His observations on the societal and economic kineticss of this information age non merely assist us better understand modern-day society but will be looked to as a cardinal mention beginning in the invariably altering old ages in front.


  • Castells, M. ( 1989 ) “ The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban Regional Process ” Wiley Blackwell Publishing
  • Castells, M. ( 1996 ) “ The Power of Identity: The Information Age, Economy, Society and Culture ” Wiley Blackwell Publishing
  • Castells, M. ( 2000 ) “ Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society ” British Journal of Sociology, Volume 51, Tavistock Publications
  • Castells, M. ( 2000 ) “ The Rise of the Network Society: Economy, Society and Culture v.1: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture ” Wiley Blackwell Publishing
  • Castells, M. ( 2002 ) “ The Internet Galaxy: Contemplations on the Internet, Business, and Society ” OUP Oxford Press
  • Castells, M. ( 2003 ) “ The Power of Identity: v. 2: The Information Age – Economy, Society and Culture ” Wiley Blackwell Publishing
  • Castells, M. ( 2009 ) “ Mobile Communication and Society ( Information Revolution and Global Politics Series ) ” MIT Press
  • Garnham, N. ( 1990 ) “ Capitalism and Communication ” Sage Publications
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  • Ny & A ; Atilde ; ­ri, P. ( 2004 ) “ Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto ” Cambridge University Press
  • Schiller, D. ( 2000 ) “ Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System ” University of Illinois Press
  • Stalder, F. ( 2006 ) “ Manuel Castells: The Theory of the Network Society ( Key Contemporary Thinkers ) ” Polity Press
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  • hypertext transfer protocol: // v=0GBB7U5mv0w/ Accessed on November 5, 2009

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