Summary: Castells’ Networks of Outrage and Hope — Changing the World in the Network Society

I decided to summarise a kind-of concluding (connecting-the-dots) chapter of Manuel Castells book Networks of Outrage and Hope. I did so for my own understanding, but sharing it would not seem to hurt. The original form was in a mind map, for that is much more visually appealing. You can find the mind map version of the below here.

Manuel Castells, author of the book Networks of Outrage and Hope

Manuel Castells, author of the book Networks of Outrage and Hope via hiredknaves.wordpress.com

Social movements are often triggered by emotions

  • anger increases the perception of an unjust action and the whose responsible
  • fear triggers anxiety –> avoidance of danger
  • fear is overcome by sharing and identifying with others through communicative actionsanger takes over –> risk-taking behaviour
  • when the process of communicative action induces collective actions and change is enacted –> enthusiasm takes over
  • enthusiastic networked individuals, having overcome fear, are transformed into conscious collective actors

Common characteristics of social movements

they are networked in multiple forms

  • active online and offline
  • networking on the Internet: because social movements online are a network of networks, they can afford not to have an identifiable centre, and yet ensure coordination functions, as well as deliberation, by interaction between multiple nodes
  • networking as the movement’s way of life protects it both against its adversaries and the danger of bureaucratisation and manipulation within the movement itself

they become a movement by occupying the urban space

  • the space of the movement is an interaction between the physical presence on the ground and the wireless/Internet presence in the same place–> hybrid: space of autonomy –> “autonomy can only be insured by the capacity to organise in the free space of communication networks  but at the same time can only be exercised as a transformative force by challenging the disciplinary institutional order by reclaiming the space of the city for its citizens”

movements are global and local at the same time

  • local in that they are often specific and organised in urban spaces
  • global because they tend to be part of a global debate online, and can call for demonstrations throughout the world in local space at the same time

timeless time

  • “they live in the moment in terms of their experience, and they project their time in the future of history-making in terms of their anticipation”

usually the social movements are spontaneous in their origin, usually triggered by a spark of indignation

  • a specific event
  • a peak in condemnation of the policies of the ruling elite

movements are viral

  • they have been mobilising people everywhere around, for they trigger the hope in the possibility of change

the transition from outrage of hope is accomplished by deliberation in the space of autonomy

  • assemblies are set up for decision making
  • potential leaders within the movement are discarded, for spreading the deeply-ingrained distrust of the political leadership

togetherness

  • as the starting point towards community
  • it is the source of empowerment

the horizontality of networks supports cooperation and solidarity while undermining the need for formal leadership

  • leaderlessness might seem ineffective – it is a principle
  • the goal does not justify the means, and, the means embody the goals of transformation

highly self-reflective in nature

  • discussions online and at assemblies about the movement

principally non-violent

  • though the use of civil obedience, like occupying public space, to pressure politics

they are rarely programmatic movements

  • lack the ability to formalise specific goals
  • individuals/groups within the movement have their own aims
  • aimed at changing the values of society

they are very political in a fundamental sense

  • the social movements propose and practice direct democracy based on networked democracy
  • they are building their own utopia: “when societies fail in managing their structural crises by the existing institutions, change can only take place out of the system by a transformation of power relations that starts in people’s minds and develops in the form of the networks build by the projects of new actors constituting themselves as the subjects of the new history in the making”

Internet and the culture of autonomy

  • The Internet and wireless networks are the technologies make the social movements in their current form possible
  • Yet, beyond it as a tool, it creates the conditions for a type of shared practice which allows a leaderless movement to survive and expand; if removed from a physical space, they organise online
  • The Internet and networked social movements share the culture of autonomy – the fundamental matrix of contemporary societies. The current social movements “embody the fundamental project of transforming people into subjects of their own lives by affirming their autonomy vis-a-vis the institutions of society”
  • –> Individuation: the cultural change that focuses individuals’ behaviours.
  • next step –> Autonomy: “the capacity of a social actor to become a subject by defining its action around projects constructed independently of the institutions of society, according to the values and interests of the social actor”
  • The transformation goes through networking, by finding likeminded individuals for common cause. The Internet provided this possibility, through its embodiment of the ‘culture of freedom’
  • Social networking sites connect people in multiple dimensions of their lives –> friendship/business/education/social-political activism. They are hybrid –> online and offline activities are complements
  • A study showed that “Internet use empowers people by increasing their feelings of security, personal freedom and influence: all feelings that have a positive effect on personal well-being.”
  • The culture of freedom, enabled by the Internet, will allow individuals to change the mindset and thus the social structure and politics

Networked social movement and reform politics: An impossible love?

  • for social movements to have a lasting effect on the political system, politicians need to notice the influence of the movement on their own goals. though social movements’ denial of the legitimacy of the political institutions makes it a difficult task
  • the networked social movement of this age reject the practice of representative democracy as it is today, making interaction between the movement and politics difficult
  • social change could ultimately come from a changing mindset of the people
  • “[T]he more the movement is able to convey its messages over the communication networks, the more citizen consciousness rises, and the more the public sphere of communication becomes a contested terrain, and the lesser will be the politicians’ capacity to integrate demands and claims with mere cosmetic adjustments.”

The mind map can be found here

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