Crucial for understanding his argument is the historical trajectory he paints for the emergence of this new form of social organization. He claims that 3 historical and independent processes converged to create the social structure of the network society:
- the crisis and restructuring of global political-economic relations associated with the dismantling of the welfare state and widespread deregulation of state-owned markets
- the freedom-loving hippies, environmentalists, feminists, and other cultural movements that eventually come to symbolize anti-globalization
- the ‘revolution’ and developments in whacky information electronics and technologies
These processes became intertwined in unintentional ways to constitute a fundamental departure from industrial society (and presumably its predecessors). Its impact was the reconfiguration of work, labor, and value. Most critical to our analysis of Castells are the implications of his theories for power.
In a way clearly influenced by the Actor-Network Theory of B Latour and the disciplinary (productive) capacity of M Foucault’s power, Castells casts networks as an assemblage of overlapping networks governed by rules encoded within protocols of connectivity. Governments, the media institutions, individual leaders, and wealthy classes are not the holders of power. Instead power is exercised via the network itself through sets of exclusions and inclusions, the recoding of network alignments and procedures (“programmers”) or the connecting of different networks (“switchers”).
Castells attempts to distinguish his conception of the network society from other models of social organization. For one, ours in neither a knowledge nor an information age. Rather, information and communication have special meaning because of the specifically digitalized, electric-power nature of our current communications infrastructure. This network society is crucially characterized by simultaneous “time-sharing” without contiguity, a “space of flows” where the spaces of place are subordinated to nodal points within the network. Finally, Castells sees a post-industrial culture of innovation, yes, but also of collaborative and creative processes that supplant even the content flowing throughout the network in importance.
And then there’s chapters 2 – 10.