Power of Identity


Manuel Castells describes the origins, purpose and effect of proactive movements, such as feminism and environmentalism, which aim to transform human relationships at their most fundamental level; and of reactive movements that build trenches of resistance on behalf of God, nation, ethnicity, family, or locality.

The fundamental categories of existence, the author shows, are threatened by the combined, contradictory assault of techno-economic forces and transformative social ...

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Manuel Castells describes the origins, purpose and effect of proactive movements, such as feminism and environmentalism, which aim to transform human relationships at their most fundamental level; and of reactive movements that build trenches of resistance on behalf of God, nation, ethnicity, family, or locality.

The fundamental categories of existence, the author shows, are threatened by the combined, contradictory assault of techno-economic forces and transformative social movements, each using the new power of the media to promote their ambitions. Caught between these opposing trends, he argues, the nation-state is called into question, drawing into its crisis the very notion of political democracy. The author moves thematically between the United States, Western Europe, Russia, Mexico, Bolivia, the Islamic World, China, and Japan, seeking to understand a variety of social processes that are, he contends, closely inter-related in function and meaning.

This is a book of profound importance for understanding how the world will be transformed by the beginning of the next century.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405107136
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/15/2004
  • Series: Information Age Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.07 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Manuel Castells, born in Spain in 1942, is Professor of Planning and of Sociology, and Chair of the Center for Western European Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was appointed in 1979. He also taught sociology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and was director of the Institute of Sociology of New Technologies at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. He has been visiting professor at the Universities of Chile, Montreal, Campinas-Sao Paulo, Caracas, Mexico, Geneva, Copenhagen, Wisconsin-Madison, Boston, Southern California, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Amsterdam, Moscow, and Hitotsubashi. He is a member of Academia Europaea (Sociology). In 1995/96 he was appointed to the European Commission's High level.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Identity and Meaning in the Network Society

Such were the words of the "Imperially Written Tale of a Thousand Words," composed by Hong Xiuquan, the guide and prophet of the Taiping Rebellion, after establishing his heavenly kingdom in Nanjing in 1853.' The insurgency of Taiping Tao (Way of Great Peace) aimed at creating a communal, neo-Christian fundamentalist kingdom in China. The kingdom was organized, for more than a decade, in conformity with the revelation of the Bible that, by his own account, Hong Xiuquan received from his elder brother,jesus Christ, after being initiated into Christianity by evangelical missionaries. Between 1845 and 1864, Hong's prayers, teachings, and armies shook up China, and the world, as they interfered with the growing foreign control of the Middle Kingdom. The Taiping Kingdom perished, as it lived, in blood and fire, taking the lives of 20 million Chinese. It longed to establish an earthly paradise by fighting the demons that had taken over China, so that "all people may live together in perpetual joy, until at last they are raised to Heaven to greet their Father. "I It was a time of crisis for state bureaucracies and moral traditions, of globalization of trade, of profitable drug traffic, of rapid industrialization spreading in the world, of religious missions, of impoverished peasants, of the shaking of families and communities, of local bandits and international armies, of the diffusion of printing and mass illiteracy, a time of uncertainty and hopelessness, of identity crisis. It was another time. Or was it?

The Construction of Identity Identity is people's source of meaning and experience. As Calhounwrites:

We know of no people without names, no languages or cultures in which some manner of distinctions between self and other, we and they, are not made ... Self-knowledge - always a construction no matter how much it feels like a discovery - is never altogether separable from claims to be known in specific ways by others.'

By identity, as it refers to social actors, I understand the process of construction of meaning on the basis of a cultural attribute, or related set of cultural attributes, that is/are given priority over other sources of meaning. For a given individual, or for a collective actor, there may be a plurality of identities. Yet, such a plurality is a source of stress and contradiction in both self-representation and social action. This is because identity must be distinguished from what, traditionally, sociologists have called roles, and role-sets. Roles (for example, to be a worker, a mother, a neighbor, a socialist militant, a union member, a basketball player, a churchgoer, and a smoker, at the same time) are defined by norms structured by the institutions and organizations of society. Their relative weight in influencing people's behavior depend upon negotiations and arrangements between individuals and these institutions and organizations. Identities are sources of meaning for the actors themselves, and by themselves, constructed through a process of individuation.' Although, as I will argue below, identities can also be originated from dominant institutions, they become identities only when and if social actors internalize them, and construct their meaning around this internalization. To be sure, some selfdefinitions can also coincide with social roles, for instance when to be a father is the most important self-definition from the point of view of the actor. Yet, identities are stronger sources of meaning than roles, because of the process of self-construction and individuation that they involve. In simple terms, identities organize the meaning while roles organize the functions. I define meaningas the symbolic identification by a social actor of the purpose of her/his action. I also propose the idea that, in the network society, for reasons that I will develop below, for most social actors, meaning is organized around a primary identity (that is an identity that frames the others), that is self-sustaining across time and space. While this approach is close to Erikson's formulation of identity, my focus here will be primarily on collective, rather than on individual, identity. However, individualism (different from individual identity) may also be a form of "collective identity," as analyzed in Lasch's "culture of narcissism.

It is easy to agree on the fact that, from a sociological perspective, all identities are constructed. The real issue is how, from what, by whom, and for what. The construction of identities uses building materials from history, from geography, from biology, from productive and reproductive institutions, from collective memory and from personal fantasies, from power apparatuses and religious revelations. But individuals, social groups, and societies process all these materials, and rearrange their meaning, according to social determinations and cultural projects that are rooted in their social structure, and in their space/time framework. I propose, as a hypothesis, that, in general terms, who constructs collective identity, and for what, largely determines the symbolic content of this identity, and its meaning for those identifying with it or placing themselves outside of it. Since the social construction of identity always takes place in a context marked by power relationships, I propose a distinction between three forms and origins of identity building: . Legitimizing identity: introduced by the dominant institutions of society to extend and rationalize their domination vis d vis social actors, a theme that is at the heart of Sennett's theory of authority and domination,' but also fits with various theories of nationalism.

  • Resistance identity: generated by those actors that are in position S/ conditions devalued and/or stigmatized by the logic of domination, thus building trenches of resistance and survival on the basis of principles different from, or opposed to, those permeating the institutions of society, as Calhoun proposes when explaining the emergence of identity politics.'
  • Project identity: when social actors, on the basis of whichever cultural materials are available to them, build a new identity that redefines their position in society and, by so doing, seek the transformation of overall social structure. This is the case, for instance, when feminism moves out from the trenches of resistance of women's identity and women's rights, to challenge patriarchalism, thus the patriarchal family, thus the entire structure of production, reproduction, sexuality, and personality on which societies have been historically based.

Naturally, identities that start as resistance may induce projects, and may also, along the course of history, become dominant in the institutions of society, thus becoming legitimizing identities to rationalize their domination. Indeed, the dynamics of identities along this sequence shows that, from the point of view of social theory, no identity can be an essence, and no identity has, per se, progressive or regressive value outside its historical context. A different, and very important matter, is the benefits of each identity for the people who belong.

In my view, each type of identity-building process leads to a different outcome in constituting society. Legitimizing identity generates * civil society; that is, a set of organizations and institutions, as well as * series of structured and organized social actors, which reproduce, albeit sometimes in a conflictive manner, the identity that rationalizes the sources of structural domination. This statement may come as a surprise to some readers, since civil society generally suggests a positive connotation of democratic social change. However, this is in fact the original conception of civil society, as formulated by Gramsci, the intellectual father of this ambiguous concept. Indeed, in Gramsci's conception, civil society is formed by a series of "apparatuses," such as the Church (es), unions, parties, cooperatives, civic associations and so on, which on the one hand, prolonging the dynamics of hte state but, on the other hand, are deeply rooted among people....

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Charts
Our World, our Lives 1
1 Communal Heavens: Identity and Meaning in the Network Society 5
The Construction of Identity 6
God's Heavens: Religious Fundamentalism and Cultural Identity 12
Nations and Nationalisms in the Age of Globalization: Imagined Communities or Communal Images? 27
Ethnic Unbonding: Race, Class, and Identity in the Network Society 52
Territorial Identities: the Local Community 60
Conclusion: the Cultural Communes of the Information Age 65
2 The Other Face of the Earth: Social Movements against the New Global Order 68
Globalization, Informationalization, and Social Movements 68
Mexico's Zapatistas: the First Informational Guerrilla Movement 72
Up in Arms against the New World Order: the American Militia and the Patriot Movement in the 1990's 84
The Lamas of Apocalypse: Japan's Aum Shinrikyo 97
The Meaning of Insurgencies against the New Global Order 104
Conclusion: the Challenge to Globalization 108
3 The Greening of the Self: the Environmental Movement 110
The Creative Cacophony of Environmentalism: a Typology 112
The Meaning of Greening: Social Issues and the Ecologists' Challenge 121
Environmentalism in Action: Reaching Minds, Taming Capital, Courting the State, Tap-dancing with the Media 128
Environmental Justice: Ecologists' New Frontier 131
4 The End of Patriarchalism: Social Movements, Family and Sexuality in the Information Age 134
The Crisis of the Patriarchal Family 138
Women at work 156
Sisterhood is Powerful: the Feminist Movement 175
The Power of Love: Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements 202
Family, Sexuality, and the Personality in the Crisis of Patriarchalism 221
The End of Patriarchalism? 242
5 A Powerless State? 243
Globalization and the State 244
The Nation-state in the Age of Multilateralism 262
Global Governance and the Super Nation-state 266
Identities, Local Governments, and the Deconstruction of the Nation-state 269
The Identification of the State 274
Contemporary Crises of Nation-states: Mexico's PRI State and the US Federal Government in the 1990's 276
The State, Violence, and Surveillance: from Big Brother to Little Sisters 299
The Crisis of the Nation-state and the Theory of the State 303
Conclusion: the King of the Universe, Sun Tzu, and the Crisis of Democracy 307
6 Informational Politics and the Crisis of Democracy 309
Introduction: the Politics of Society 309
Media as the Space of Politics in the Information Age 313
Informational Politics in Action: the Politics of Scandal 333
The Crisis of Democracy 342
Conclusion: Reconstructuring Democracy? 349
Conclusion: Social Change in the Network Society 354
Methodological Appendix 363
Summary of Contents of Volumes I and III 395
References 397
Index 435
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