Manuel Castells’ The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture

In dealing with and managing the impacts of the revolution one must attempt to understand the drivers behind the change. So much of gaining understanding relating to this complex topic lies in letting go of past concepts previously relied upon and at the core of many of our belief systems. Dr. Felix Stalder (See, an expert in a variety of issues surrounding technology and its connection to society, published these reflections on Dr. Castell's book Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture . It is enlightening literature for people to begin to understand the truly mammoth ground swell of change occurring at present and evolving more rapidly than many can grasp. Academic in nature, the observations shared by Stalder and Castell are enlightening indeed.

The Network Paradigm: Social Formations in the Age of Information by Dr. Felix Stalder


The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I. M. Castells (1996). Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 556 pp., ISBN 1-55786-617-1

The Power of Identity, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. II. M. Castells (1997). Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 461 pp., ISBN 1-55786-874-3

The End of the Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. III. M. Castells (1997). Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 418 pp., ISBN 1-55786-872-7

Manuel%20Castells.jpgManuel Castells’ The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture (1996, 1997 and 1998) is unrivaled in ambition: to make sense of the global social dynamics as they arise out of a myriad of changes around the world. It is a cross-cultural analysis of the major social, economic and political transformations at the end of this century. It is presented through interrelated empirical case studies whose number and variety are truly enormous–the bibliography alone fills 120 pages–and threatens to overwhelm the reader at times. Nevertheless, the trilogy is prodigious and sets a new standard against which all future meta-accounts of the Information Society will be measured. It will be indispensable reading for anyone interested in a grand narrative of the present.

Castells’ main argument is that a new form of capitalism has emerged at the end of this century: global in its character, hardened in its goals and much more flexible than any of its predecessors. It is challenged around the globe by a multitude of social movements on behalf of cultural singularity and people’s control over their own lives and environment. This tension provides the central dynamic of the Information Age, as "our societies are increasingly structured around the bipolar opposition of the Net and the Self" (1996, p. 3). The Net stands for the new organizational formations based on the pervasive use of networked communication media. Network patterns are characteristic for the most advanced economic sectors, highly competitive corporations as well as for communities and social movements. The Self symbolizes the activities through which people try to reaffirm their identities under the conditions of structural change and instability that go along with the organization of core social and economic activities into dynamic networks. New social formations emerge around primary identities, which may be sexual, religious, ethnic, territorial or national in focus. These identities are often seen as biologically or socially unchangeable, contrasting with the fast-paced change of social landscapes. In the interplay of the Net and the Self the conditions of human life and experience around the world are deeply reconfigured.

The trilogy concludes more than a decade of research, spanning from new social movements and urban change (Castells, 1983; 1989) to development of the high-tech industries and their organization into technopoles, clusters of high-tech firms and institutions of higher education, such as the Silicon Valley (Castells and Hall, 1994), to comparative analysis of the fastest developing countries in the Asian Pacific Rim (Castells, 1992), to research conducted in Russia before and after the 1991 revolution and the demise of the Soviet Union.

It details the diversity of social change interlinked around the globe which created the Information Age and integrates the often seemingly contradictory trends into a comprehensive analytical framework. The theoretical abstractions are developed through a broad and detailed empirical analysis "as a method of disciplining my theoretical discourse, of making it difficult, if not impossible, to say something that observed collective action rejects in practice" (1997, p. 3). This makes his account highly accessible and richly textured.