The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook

The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook

by Niall Ferguson


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The instant New York Times bestseller.

A brilliant recasting of the turning points in world history, including the one we're living through, as a collision between old power hierarchies and new social networks.

“Captivating and compelling.” —The New York Times

"Niall Ferguson has again written a brilliant book...In 400 pages you will have restocked your mind. Do it." —The Wall Street Journal

The Square and the Tower, in addition to being provocative history, may prove to be a bellwether work of the Internet Age.” —Christian Science Monitor

Most history is hierarchical: it's about emperors, presidents, prime ministers and field marshals. It's about states, armies and corporations. It's about orders from on high. Even history "from below" is often about trade unions and workers' parties. But what if that's simply because hierarchical institutions create the archives that historians rely on? What if we are missing the informal, less well documented social networks that are the true sources of power and drivers of change?

The 21st century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real.

From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks, and shows how network theory—concepts such as clustering, degrees of separation, weak ties, contagions and phase transitions—can transform our understanding of both the past and the present.

Just as The Ascent of Money put Wall Street into historical perspective, so The Square and the Tower does the same for Silicon Valley. And it offers a bold prediction about which hierarchies will withstand this latest wave of network disruption—and which will be toppled.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735222939
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/22/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 60,147
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of the world's most renowned historians. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, High Financier, Civilization, The Great Degeneration, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, and The Square and the Tower. He is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. His many awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

List of Plates xvii

Preface: The Networked Historian xix

Part I Introduction: Networks and Hierarchies

1 The Mystery of the Illuminati 3

2 Our Networked Age 10

3 Networks, Networks Everywhere 15

4 Why Hierarchies? 21

5 From Seven Bridges to Six Degrees 24

6 Weak Ties and Viral Ideas 30

7 Varieties of Network 36

8 When Networks Meet 42

9 Seven Insights 46

10 The Illuminati Illuminated 49

Part II Emperors and Explorers

11 A Brief History of Hierarchy 59

12 The First Networked Age 65

13 The Art of the Renaissance Deal 68

14 Discoverers 71

15 Pizarro and the Inca 77

16 When Gutenberg Met Luther 82

Part III Letters and Lodges

17 The Economic Consequences of the Reformation 93

18 Trading Ideas 95

19 Networks of Enlightenment 101

20 Networks of Revolution 106

Part IV The Restoration of Hierarchy

21 The Red and the Black 121

22 From Crowd to Tyranny 124

23 Order Restored 129

24 The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha 134

25 The House of Rothschild 138

26 Industrial Networks 145

27 From Pentarchy to Hegemony 151

Part V Knights of the Round Table

28 An Imperial Life 155

29 Empire 158

30 Taiping 168

31 The Chinese Must Go' 173

32 The Union of South Africa 179

33 Apostles 186

34 Armageddon 193

Part VI Plagues and Pipers

35 Greenmantle 201

36 The Plague 213

37 The Leader Principle 222

38 The Fall of the Golden International 226

39 The Ring of Five 236

40 Brief Encounter 246

41 Ella in Reform School 254

Part VII Own the Jungle

42 The Long Peace 267

43 The General 270

44 The Crisis of Complexity 277

45 Henry Kissinger's Network of Power 284

46 Into the Valley 299

47 The Fall of the Soviet Empire 306

48 The Triumph of Davos Man 311

49 Breaking the Bank of England 316

Part VIII The Library of Babel

50 9/11/2001 333

51 9/15/2008 341

52 The Administrative State 347

53 Web 2.0 351

54 Coming Apart 360

55 Tweeting the Revolution 365

56 11/9/2016 380

Part IX Conclusion: Facing Cyberia

57 Metropolis 393

58 Network Outage 396

59 FANG, BAT and EU 412

60 The Square and the Tower Redux 419

Afterword: The Original Square and Tower 425

Appendix 433

References 439

Bibliography 493

Index 537

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