The Power of Identity: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture

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"The Power of Identity is the second volume of Manuel Castells's trilogy, The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture. It deals with the social, political, and cultural dynamics associated with the technological transformation of our societies and with the globalization of the economy. It analyzes the importance of cultural, religious, and national identities as sources of meaning for people, and the implications of these identities for social movements. It studies grassroots mobilizations against the unfettered globalization of wealth and ...
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Overview

"The Power of Identity is the second volume of Manuel Castells's trilogy, The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture. It deals with the social, political, and cultural dynamics associated with the technological transformation of our societies and with the globalization of the economy. It analyzes the importance of cultural, religious, and national identities as sources of meaning for people, and the implications of these identities for social movements. It studies grassroots mobilizations against the unfettered globalization of wealth and power, and considers the formation of alternative projects of social organization, as represented by the environmental movement and the women's movement. It also analyzes the crisis of the nation-state and its transformation into a network state, and the effects on political democracies of the difficulties of international governance and the submission of political representation to the dictates of media politics and the politics of scandal." This second edition updates and elaborates the analysis of these themes, adding new sections on al-Qaeda and global terrorist networks, on the anti-globalization movement, on American unilateralism and the conflicts of global governance, on the crisis of political legitimacy throughout the world, and on the theory of the network state.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557868732
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/1997
  • Series: The Information Age Ser.
  • Pages: 352

Meet the Author

Manuel Castells, born in Spain in 1942, is Professor of Sociology and Professor of Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, and Research Professor of Information Society at the Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona. Before being appointed to Berkeley in 1979 he was Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Paris. He has been a visiting professor at 16 universities around the world, and has received honorary doctorates from several universities. He is the recipient of numerous academic awards, including the C. Wright Mills Award, and the Robert and Helen Lynd Award from the American Sociological Association. He is a member of the European Academy. He has published 25 books, among which is the trilogy The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, first published by Blackwell in 1996–8, and translated into 20 languages.
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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
Preface and Acknowledgments 2003
Acknowledgments 1996
Our World, our Lives 1
1 Communal Heavens: Identity and Meaning in the Network Society 5
2 The Other Face of the Earth: Social Movements against the New Global Order 71
3 The Greening of the Self: The Environmental Movement 168
4 The End of Patriarchalism: Social Movements, Family, and Sexuality in the Information Age 192
5 Globalization, Identification, and the State: A Powerless State or a Network State? 303
6 Informational Politics and the Crisis of Democracy 367
Conclusion: Social Change in the Network Society 419
Methodological Appendix 429
Summary of Contents of Volumes I and III 464
References 466
Index 512
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