Politics of the Network Society

Politics of the Network Society

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In End of Millennium (2nd. ed., Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000), Manuel Castells makes much of the change from Industrialism (which he defines as a mode of development in which the main sources of productivity are the quantitative increases of factors of production and the use of new sources of energy) to Informationism (defined as the mode of development in which the main source of productivity is the qualitative capacity to optimize the combination and use of the factors of production on the basis of knowledge and information). This transformation of economics, he says, is inseperable from the rise of a new social structure, the NETWORK SOCIETY. Here, he says, the primary shift is located in the material foundations of our existence: that is, space and time. We have gone from a conception of space as "place" to a conception of space as "flows." Similarly, we have gone from a conception of time as "clock time" to a conception of time as "timeless time." Additionally, he makes much of the shift from the POLITICS of space/time to the politics of information: that is, a politics enacted by symbol manipulation rather than material manipulation. This "symbol manipulation," he says, occurs in the abstract space of the media in the form of representation, etc.

Basically, he takes this idea and applies it to current conflicts in the world today. He makes a huge, complicated argument that the USSR fell because of statism/communism's inability to adapt to this system; and he also argues that China, etc. have surged economically in recent years precisely because they were able to incorporate their old political ideologies with this very real change that has ocurred in the world market. More importantly for our project, he brings in the notion (based on what seems to me like neoMarxism) of SOCIAL EXCLUSION: that is, the new form of cultural imperialism in which the "First World" systemmatically excludes what he calls the "New Fourth World" by keeping them from the mainstream technology and markets which are the driving forces behind informational capitalism. In doing so, the fourth world are forced into a position of "uselessness" compared with the rest of the world; and they are quickly forced into a devastating pattern of exporting only their raw materials (the only resources left after exclusion) to the first world. This, of course, leads to intense nationalism, hatred, and anything other tactic that allows the new fourth world to hold on to anything resembling an identity.

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In light of this, here are some questions that could prove productive: How have we cornered the middle eastern nations into a fourth world position, devoid of any sort of identity in global politics? In what ways is this "war" a war of symbols or of literary metaphor? (ie. Yassar Arafat giving blood, the World Trade Center as the "symbol for capitalism"). If this is a war of "timeless time" and "space of flows," how is W.'s reaction of immediately sending troops in an effort to "smoke them out and drag them back" a reversion back to the space of "place" (nationalities as 'other') and the time of clocks (a timely revenge, demanded by the American public). My main question: is this phenomenon, as Castells seems to think, a NEW thing? Haven't wars always been fought in symbols and symbol manipulation?
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