Prologue: the Net and the Self



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A Word on Method


This is not a book about books. While relying on evidence of various sorts, and on analyses and accounts from multiple sources, it does not intend to discuss existing theories of post-industrialism or the information society. Several thorough, balanced presentations of these theories are available43 as well as various critiques44 including my own.45 Similarly, I shall not contribute, except when necessary for the sake of the argument, to the cottage industry created in the 1980s around postmodern theory,46 being for my part fully satisfied with the excellent criticism elaborated by David Harvey on the social and ideological foundations of "post-modernity,”47 as well as with the sociological dissection of postmodern theories performed by Scott Lash .48 certainly owe many thoughts to many authors, and particularly to the forebears of informationalism, Alain Touraine and Daniel Bell, as well as to the one Marxist theorist who sensed the new, relevant issues just before his death in 1979, Nicos Poulantzas.49 And I duly acknowledge borrowed concepts when I use them as tools in my specific analyses. Yet I have tried to construct a discourse as autonomous and non-redundant as possible, integrating Materials and observations from various sources, without submitting the reader to the painful revisiting of the bibliographical jungle where I have lived (fortunately, among other activities) for the past 12 years.

In a similar vein, while using a significant amount of statistical sources and empirical studies, I have tried to minimize the processing of data to simplify an already excessively cumbersome book. Therefore, I tend


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to use data sources that find broad, accepted consensus among social scientists (for example, OECD, United Nations, World Bank, governments' official statistics, authoritative research monographs, generally reliable academic or business sources), except when such sources seem to be erroneous (such as Soviet GNP statistics or the World Bank's report on adjustment policies in Africa). I am aware of limitations in lending credibility to information that may not always be accurate, yet the reader will realize that numerous precautions have been taken in this text to form conclusions usually on the basis of convergent trends from several sources, according to a methodology of triangulation with a well-established, successful Tradition among historians, policemen, and investigative reporters. Furthermore, the data, observations, and references presented in this book do not really aim at demonstrating but at suggesting hypotheses while constraining the ideas within a corpus of observation, admittedly selected with my research questions in mind but certainly not organized around preconceived answers. The methodology followed in this book, whose specific implications will be discussed in each chapter, is at the service of the overarching purpose of its intellectual endeavor: to propose some elements of an exploratory, cross-cultural theory of economy and society in the Information Age, as it specifically refers to the emergence of a new social structure. The broad scope of my analysis is required by the pervasiveness of the object of such analysis (informationalism) throughout social domains and cultural expressions. But I certainly do not intend to address the whole range of themes and issues in contemporary societies - since writing encyclopedias is not my trade.

The book is divided into three parts which the publisher has wisely transformed into three volumes. They are analytically interrelated, but they have been organized to make their reading independent. The only exception to this rule concerns the Conclusion, in volume III, which is the overall conclusion of the book, and presents a synthetic interpretation of its findings and ideas.

The division into three volumes, while making the book publishable and readable, raises some problems in communicating my overall theory. Indeed, some critical topics that cut across all the themes treated in this book are presented in the second volume. Such is the case, particularly, of the analysis of women and patriarchalism, and of power relationships and the state. I warn the reader that I do not share a traditional view of society as made up of superimposed levels, with technology and economy in the basement, power on the mezzanine, and culture in the penthouse. Yet, for the sake of clarity, I am forced to a systematic, somewhat linear presentation of topics which, while relating to each other, cannot fully integrate all the elements until they



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have been discussed in some depth throughout the intellectual journey on which the reader is invited by this book. The first volume, in the reader's hands, deals primarily with the logic of what I call the Net, while the second (The Power of Identity) analyzes the formation of the self, and the interaction between the Net and the self in the crisis of two central institutions of society: the patriarchal family and the nation-state. The third volume (End of Millennium) attempts an interpretation of historical transformations in the last lapse of the twentieth century, as a result of the dynamics of processes studied in the first two volumes. It is only at the end of the third volume that a general integration between theory and observation, linking up the analyses concerning the various domains, will be proposed, although each volume concludes with an effort at synthesizing the main findings and ideas presented in the volume. While volume III is more directly concerned with specific processes of historical change in various contexts, throughout the whole book I have tried my best to accomplish two goals: to ground analysis in observation, without reducing theorization to commentary; and to diversify culturally my sources of observation and of ideas, as much as possible. This approach stems from my conviction that we have entered a truly multicultural, interdependent world, which can only be understood, and changed, from a plural perspective that brings together cultural identity, global networking, and multidimensional politics.



1 Recounted in Sima Qian (145-c.89Bc), "Confucius," in Hu Shi, The Development of Logical Metbods in Ancient China (Shanghai: Oriental Book Company, 1922), quoted in Qian (1985: 125).

2² See the interesting debate on the matter in Smith and Marx (1994).

3 Technology does not determine society: it embodies it. But nor does society determine technological innovation: it uses it. This dialectical interaction between society and technology is present in the works of the best historians, such as Fernand Braudel.

4 Classic historian of technology Melvin Kranzberg has forcefully argued against the false dilemma of technological determinism. See, for instance, Kranzberg's (1992) acceptance speech of the award of honorary membership in NASTS.

5 Bijker et al. (1987).

6 There is still to be written a fascinating social history of the values and personal views of some of the key innovators of the 1970s' SiliconValley revolution in computer technologies. But a few indications seem to point to the fact that they were intentionally trying to undo the centralizing technologies of the corporate world, both out of conviction and as their market niche. As evidence, I recall the famous Apple Computer 1984 advertising spot to launch Macintosh, in explicit opposition to Big Brother IBM of Orwellian mythology. As for the counter-cultural character of many of these innovators, I shall also refer to the life story of the genius developer of the personal computer, Steve Wozniak: after quitting Apple, bored by its transformation into another multinational corporation, he spent a fortune for a few years subsidizing rock groups that he liked, before creating another company to develop technologies of his taste. At one point, after having created the personal computer, Wozniak realized that he had no formal education in computer sciences, so he enrolled at UC Berkeley. But in order to avoid embarrassing publicity he used another name.

7 For selected evidence concerning the Variation of information technology diffusion patterns in different social and institutional contexts, see, among other works: Bertazzoni et al. (1984); Guile (1985); Agence de l'Informatique (1986); Castells et al. (1986); Landau and Rosenberg (1986); Bianchi et al. (1988); Watanuki (1990); Freeman et al. (1991); Wang (1994).

8 For an informed and cautious discussion of relationships between society and technology, see Fischer (1985).

9 See the analyses presented in Castells(1988b);also Webster(1991).

10 My discussion of China's interrupted technological development relies mainly on an extraordinary chapter by Joel Mokyr (1990: 209-38) and on a most insightful, although controversial, book, Qian (1985).

11 Jones (1981: 160), cited by Mokyr (1990: 219).

12 Needham (1954-88, 1969, 1981); Qian (1985); Jones (1988); Mokyr (1990).

13 Wang (1993).

14 Chida and Davies (1990).

15 Ito (1993).

16 Several distinguished Japanese scholars, and I tend to concur with them, consider that the best Western account of the Meiji Restoration, and of the social roots of Japanese modernization, is Norman (1940). It has been translated into Japanese and is widely read in Japanese universities. A brilliant historian, educated at Cambridge and Harvard, before joining the Canadian diplomatic corps, Norman was denounced as a communist by Karl Wittfogel to the McCarthy Senate Committee in the 1950s, and was then submitted to constant pressure from Western intelligence agencies. Appointed Canadian ambassador to Egypt, he committed suicide in Cairo in 1957. Ort the contribution of this truly exceptional scholar to the understanding of the Japanese state, see Dower (1975); for a different perspective, see Beasley (1990).

17 Kamatani (1988); Matsumoto and Sinclair (1994).

18 Uchida (1991).

19 Ito (1994); Japan Informatization Processing Center (1994); for a Western perspective, see Forester (1993).

20 See Norman(1940);Dower(1975);Allen(1981a).

21 Johnson (1995).

22 Nolan and Furen(1990);Hsing(1996).

23 Touraine (1969).

24 Bell (1976). First published 1973, but all quotes are from the 1976 edition, which includes a new, substantial "Foreword 1976."

25 For the sake of clarity in this book, it is necessary to provide a Definition of knowledge and information, even if such an intellectually satisfying gesture introduces a dose of the arbitrary in the discourse, as social scientists who have struggled with the issue know well. I have no compelling reason to improve on Daniel Bell's (1976: 175) own Definition of knowledge: "Knowledge: a set of organized statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form. Thus, I distinguish knowledge from news and entertainment." As for information, some established authors in the field, such as Machlup, simply define information as the communication of knowledge (see Machlup 1962: 15). However, this is because Machlup's Definition of knowledge seems to be excessively broad, as Bell argues. Thus, I would rejoin the operational Definition of information proposed by Porat in his classic work (1977: 2): "Information is data that have been organized and communicated."

26 When technological innovation does not diffuse in society, because of institutional obstacles to such diffusion, what follows is technological retardation because of the absence of necessary social/cultural feedback into the institutions of innovation and into the innovators themselves. This is the fundamental lesson that can be drawn from such important experiences as Qing's China or the Soviet Union. For the Soviet Union, sec volume III. For China, see Qian (1985) and Mokyr (1990).


27 I presented some years ago my interpretation of the causes of the 1970s' worldwide economic crisis, as well as a tentative prognosis of avenues for capitalist restructuring. Notwithstanding the excessively rigid theoretical framework I juxtaposed to the empirical analysis, I think that the main points I made in that book (written in 1977-8), including the prediction of Reaganomics under that name, are still useful to understand the qualitative changes that operated in capitalism during the last two decades of the twentieth century (see Castells 1980).

28 Aron (1963).

29 On Japanese uniqueness in a sociological perspective, see Shoji (1990).

30 On the social roots of Spanish differences, and similarities ,vis-à-vis other countries, see Zaldivar and Castells (1992).

31 I should like to draw an analytical distinction between the notions of "information society" and "informational society," with similar implications for information/informational economy. The term "information society" emphasizes the role of information in society. But I argue that information, in its broadest sense, e.g. as communication of knowledge, has been critical in all societies, including medieval Europe which was culturally structured, and to some extent unified, around scholasticism, that is, by and large an intellectual framework (see Southern 1995). In contrast, the term "informational" indicates the Attribute of a specific form of social organization in which information Generation, processing, and transmission become the fundamental sources of productivity and power because of new technological conditions emerging in this historical period. My terminology tries to establish a parallel with the distinction between industry and industrial. An industrial society (a usual notion in the sociological Tradition) is not just a society where there is industry, but a society where the social and technological forms of industrial organization permeate all spheres of activity, starting with the dominant activities, located in the economic system and in military technology, and reaching the objects and habits of everyday life. My use of the terms "informational society" and "informational economy" attempts a more precise characterization of current transformations beyond the common-sense observation that information and knowledge are important to our societies. However, the actual content of "informational society" has to be determined by observation and analysis. This is precisely the object of this book. For instance, one of the key features of informational society is the networking logic of its basic structure, which explains the use of the concept of "network society," as defined and specified in the conclusion of this volume. However, other components of "informational society," such as social movements or the state, exhibit features that go beyond the networking logic, although they are substantially influenced by such logic, as characteristic of the new social structure. Thus, "the network society" does not exhaust all the meaning of the "informational society. " Finally, why, after all these precisions, have I kept The Information Age as the overall title of the book, without including medieval Europe in my inquiry? Titles are communicating devices. They should be user-friendly, clear enough for the reader to guess what is the real topic of the book, and worded in a fashion that does not depart excessively from the semantic frame of reference. Thus, in a world built around information technologies, information society, informatization, information superhighway, and the like (all terminologies originated in Japan in the mid-1960s - johoka shakai, in Japanese - and transmitted to the west in 1978 by Simon Nora and Alain Minc, indulging in exoticism), a title such as The Information Age points straightforwardly to the questions to be raised, without prejudging the answers.

32 Yoshino (1992: I).

33 Calhoun (1994: 4).

34 Touraine (1994: 168; my translation, his italics).

35 Calderon and Laserna (1994: 90; my translation). -

36 Barglow(1994:6).

37 Barglow (1994: 53).

38 Barglow (1994: 185).

39 For the new forms of revolt linked to identity in explicit opposition to globalization, see the exploratory analysis undertaken in Castells et al. (1996).

40 Touraine (1991).

41 Wieviorka (1993).

42 See, for instance, Colas (1992); Kepel (1993).

43 A useful overview of sociological theories on post-industrialism and informationalism is Lyon (1988). For the intellectual and terminological origins of notions of "information society," see Nora and Minc (1978) and Ito (1991a). See also Beniger (1986); Katz (1988); Williams (1988); Salvaggio (1989).

44 For critical perspectives on post-industrialism, See, among others, Woodward (1980); Roszak (1986); Lyon (1988); Shoji (1990); Touraine (1992). For a cultural critique of our society's emphasis on information technology, see Postman (1992).

45 For my own critique of post-industrialism, see Castells (1994, 1996).

46 See Lyon (1994); also Seidman and Wagner (1992).

47 Harvey (1990).

48 Lash (1990).

49 Poulantzas (1978: esp. 160-9).



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