Friday, March 19, 2004

OK, so I gotta update this blog. Went to listen to Manuel Castells' lecture on "Politics and Power in the Network Society" at London School of Economics yesterday. A lot could be said. The most profound flabbergastation was derived from audience watching. LSE students aren't nearly as outer-worldly as us of the provinces sometimes fancy. Or, uhh, well, they are, kinda. Anyway, this paragraph isn't leading anywhere.


  • There is a CRISIS OF POLITICAL LEGITIMACY!!! Big news from Castells here. He's referring to party politics in the parliamentary form, but "forgot" to mention that caveat. Oh, and he knows his Poulanzas. During the Q&A Castells was courting the Angry Young Marxists to Step Forward so he could Baffle them with his knowledge of Marxist History and why it Failed. Great.

  • The Arnold-vote was NOT a vote to the right but "a vote to terminate the political class." Snappy line, but, again, Castells scores on conflating "politics" with "professional party politicians operating under liberal democratic institutions." So it's a protest vote to him. Besides patronizing the electorate (interpellated as "citizens" in Castells' discourse), it also situates the speaker in the comfortable center. The angry ones, those who don't understand grown-ups' politics, they are extremists! Boo!

  • Interesting quantitative tid-bit: In Inglehart's World Values Survey we may extrapolate that regional identification figured more prominently in Southern Europe, while national identification was more pronounced in Northern Europe. FWIW.

  • Castells conflates the theatrical aspect of contemporary mediated politics with the unreliable. He claims the electorate doesn't trust politicians anymore. But what's new about this? Did the serf ever trust that the landlord had the serf's best interest in mind? Should politicians and the political system be regarded as some kind of god we should respond dutifully to when asked to sacrifice our children? Hey, Castells, go kill me a son.

  • The rest of the talk was actually about Power in Social Networks. Far more Foucauldian and hence interesting. Problem is he wants it both ways. He wants to maintain a notion of agency ("social actors") and at the same time claim that if you're outside the network you're powerless. It's a tricky one. Would it be possible to be in/outside except in a sense of individual connectivity? (Besides, does it really hold? There are linkages to the WWW even for those not actually online?)

There's more to be said. Perhaps I'll return to Castells' theory of domination and resistance in networks. He ended his lecture by mentioning how the demonstrations in Spain last Saturday had been organized by way of SMS, WiFi and other networked technologies. The participation of young voters increased dramatically from last election. (So there is hope? So Castells is a spokesperson for liberal parliamentarism, no?)