Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

at home or abroad to reach out to other people who share their preoccupations no matter where they are. This may strengthen cultural diversity and counter the tendency toward a single, homogenized world culture. It's hard to predict what the net effect will be--a strengthening or a weakening of local cultural values.❖

Manuel Castells ( 1942-) was born in Spain but lived in exile, mostly in France, during the last years of the repressive Franco regime in his native land. He has taught in universities in every part of the world, including Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Singapore, Moscow, and throughout Latin America. Since 1979 he has been professor of sociology and urban planning at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written numerous books including The Economic Crisis and American Society ( 1980), The Information City ( 1989), and The Rise of the Network Society ( 1996), which is the first book in a trilogy, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture.


The Global Network

Manuel Castells( 1996)

I shall first define the concept of network, since it plays such a central role in my characterization of society in the information age. A network is a set of interconnected nodes. A node is the point at which a curve intersects itself. What a node is, concretely speaking, depends on the kind of concrete networks of which we speak. They are stock exchange markets, and their ancillary advanced services centers, in the network of global financial flows. They are national councils of ministers and European Commissioners in the political network that governs the European Union. They are coca fields and poppy fields, clandestine laboratories, secret landing strips, street gangs, and money-laundering financial institutions, in the network of drug traffic that penetrates economies, societies, and states throughout the world. They are television systems, entertainment studios, computer graphics milieux, news teams, and mobile devices generating, transmitting, and receiving signals, in the global network of the new media at the roots of cultural expression and public opinion in the information age. The topology defined by networks determines that the distance (or intensity and frequence of interaction) between two points (or social positions) is shorter (or more frequent, or more intense) if both points are nodes in a network than if they do not belong to the same network. On the other hand, within a given network flows have no distance, or the same distance, between nodes. Thus, distance (physical, social, economic, political, cultural) for a given point or position varies between zero (for any node in the same network) and infinite (for any point external to the network). The inclusion/exclusion in networks, and the architecture of relationships between networks, enacted by light-speed operating information technologies, configurate dominant processes and functions in our societies.

Networks are open structures, able to expand without limits, integrating new nodes as long as they are able to communicate within the network, namely as long as they share the same communication codes (for example, values or performance goals). A

____________________
Excerpt from Rise of the Network Society ( Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), pp. 470-478. Copyright © 1996. Reprinted by permission of Blackwell Publishers.

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