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W12 Barney Reading Notes: The Network Society.docx

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Simon Fraser University
CMNS 210
Stuart Poyntz

Network Society by Darin Barney (2004) 2  Efforts to conceptualize the spirit of the contemporary era is gathered under the phrase ‘the network society’  Spirit of our age is the spirit of the network: the constitutive principles of net- works have become the animating force of individual, social, economic and political life, and this marks the distinction of our period in history  Manuel Castells (1996): as a historical trend, dominant functions and processes are increasingly organized around networks. Networks constitute the new social mor- phology of our societies, and the diffusion of networking logic substantially modi- fies the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power and culture  Network: a structural condition whereby distinct points (nodes) are related to one another by connections (ties) that are typically multiple, intersection and often re- dundant; exists when many nodes (people, firms, computers) are linked to many other nodes, usually by many ties which cross the ties connecting other nodes; de- centralized, proliferating connectivity  Matrix metaphor: matrix derives from Latin mater (mother, womb) – networks are the womb from which a qualitatively new form of society is being born, a society in which identity, politics and economy are structured, and operate, as networks 3 What is in a name?  The power attached to naming something is considerable: to name something is to express dominion over it, to constitute it as true  Those who seek to name an age seek to name an age seek to unify or gather its par- ticularities, to establish the truth about it, and to exert some control over its dy- namic forces by understanding these to the point of being able to nominate them comprehensively and persuasively  There is considerable variation amongst these efforts (approaches can be ideologi- 4 cal, sociological, historical (past, present, future), economic, political, or social)  The network society is part of the galaxy of recent attempts to capture decisively that of which we are in the midst, and our understanding of it as a discrete concept will benefit from considering the constellation of discourses to which it is related most closely, both conceptually and historically  Discourses of nomination: post-industrialism, information society, post-Fordism, postmodernism, and globalization 5 Post-industrialism Industrialism  Spawned in 18 century, matured in 19 and culminated in 20 , named economic face of modernity  Set of productive practices which brought with them, and relied upon, a range of social arrangements: mine and factory, urban city, class division, mass consumer markets  Motivated by Bourgeois class liberated from constraints of feudal property rela- tions (in capitalism)/rational egalitarianism of vanguard elite uncorrupted by self- 1 Network Society by Darin Barney (2004) interested (in socialism)  Animated by labour of working class transformed from rural peasantry into urban proletariat  Principle of industrialism as economic model: apply human labour (directly or technologically) to transform basic matter into products which can be circulated and consumed (profitably as marketable commodities in capitalism/equitably as centrally distributed collective wealth in socialism)  Sought to perfect mechanization, rationalization and standardization of produc- tion, increased power generation, exploitation of natural resources, organization of national mass markets for the consumption of its output  Generated enormous economic wealth which has adorned the modern West (ineq- uitably distributed in capitalist and socialist societies) Post-Industrialism  Expresses transition of industrial economies and societies into an unknown future at beginning of 1970s when welfare state accelerated its development in capitalist countries  Several crucial dynamics combined to signal a transformation: diversion of ener- gies 6 of post-industrializing societies away from material manufacturing and towards service provision as primary economic activity and source of wealth  Exploitation of information and knowledge as opposed to labour and capital as crucial economic resources  Reorientation towards service industries and growth of white-collar service occu- pation as opposed to blue-collar jobs  Basis of economic stratification is control over systemic information and knowledge (as opposed to property relation turning on ownership of the means of production): technocrats, managers, professional engineers, scientists replace fac- tory and mine owners at top of social and political hierarchy, those executing me- nial tasks of service delivery replace industrial proletariat at its bottom  Optimistic theorists (Bell): potential to overcome degrading and unjust aspects of industrial era; more educated, leisured and engaged citizenry; levelling of econom- ic inequality; thriving global economy, scientific advance immune to ideology; ra- tional management of public affairs  Pessimistic theorists (Tourraine, Marcuse, Ellul): programmed, one-dimensional society which would deepen alienation of capitalism; human life increasingly sub- jected to domination and irrational exploitation masquerading as objectively ra- tional technique;  differences between industrial and post-industrial society: degree not kind of dom- ination and alienation 7  empirical challenge (Cohen and Zysman, Woodward): socio-economic shift not shift from industry to service or knowledge, but transition from one kin if industri- al society to another 2 Network Society by Darin Barney (2004) Information Society  1970s: energy crisis and recession in Atlantic economies  Japanese scholars developed new model ‘joho shakai’ (information society) for so- ciety and economy which revolved specifically around the increasingly flexible functionality of micro-computers  Model is echo of post-industrialism with sharper articulation of role of computing technology and knowledge in abstract form of information  Japanese futurist Masuda (1981): joho shakai would replace production and circu- lation of information values, computer at the core of information society with fun- damental economic function of augmenting and replacing mental labour yielding increased leisure and new information-based industries, social and political: volun- tary 8 communities, participatory democracy, generalized affluence, equality, psychic well-being, ‘Computopia’ in which person could paint one’s own design on the in- visible canvas of one’s future and set out to create it’;  Late 1970s: economic downturn continued, Europe and North America considered new Japanese approach to maintain productivity and growth: Porat (1977) empiri- cal evidence that 1970s America was already and information society, Nora and Minc (1978) report on computization for French government 9  1980: information society develops from utopian idealism into distinct revolution- ary doctrine with 7 elemental beliefs (Dyer-Witheford (1999)): 1. world is in a state of fundamental transition/upheaval similar in kind and in- th tensity to shift from agrarian to industrial society in 19 century 2. crucial resource is knowledge/information 3. primary dynamic force in revolution/society is technology development and diffusion 4. generation of wealth in information economy has eclipsed that of materi- al/manufacturing economy 5. accompanying social transformation is essentially positive 6. information revolution – technical, economic, social – is planetary in scale 7. information revolution is not only a new phase in human civilization but also an evolutionary step forward for life itself (8. firm conviction that information revolution is irresistible and irreversible)  primary driver of information society is computer which became an everyday mass appliance in 1980s  theories of information society extended theories of post-industrialism, modifying them to reflect the rapidly expanding role played by computing and digitized infor- mation in the mediation of increasing array of social political and economic activities  criticism: series of technologically driven dynamics which left intact and en- trenched foundational logic, practices and relationships of liberal democratic capi- talism truly revolutionary?; Distinction between information and industrial eco- nomics false (computerization part of well-established industrial production re- gimes); failure of 10 revolution to redistribute political power and knowledge/reconfigure possibilities of participation within or between societies substantially; development of new in- 3 Network Society by Darin Barney (2004) formation technologies and practices occurred under logic of marketplace and were instrumental to reproduction of capitalist relation of production, empower- ing existing elite and perpetuating disempowerment of working class;  effect of critiques: growing sensitivity to ideological and mythological character of discourse surrounding information society Post-Fordism  network society closely connected to theories and analyses arising in 1980s as ‘Post-Fordism’  roots in Regulation School of political economy who sought to provide model for understanding of historical resilience of capitalist mode of production: capitalism no a static phenomenon destined to collapse under weight of its own contradic- tions, but a succession of ‘regimes of accumulation’ comprised of complementary production, consumption and regulatory configurations combining particular way of producing goods, construction of consumer market for these goods, and role for state regulation of market economy Fordism th th  late 19 to mid 20 century  named after Henry Ford, archetypical American capitalist industrialist in whose automobile factories and surrounding societies the regime was made manifest 11  mass, mechanized production of highly standardized goods in rigid and highly segmented process; repetitive execution of highly circumscribed, specialized rou- tinized tasks with little variation or discretion on part of labourers; replacement of individual judgement and craft by standardized operational principles oriented to maximum efficiency (i.e. Taylorist scientific management); large numbers of inter- changeable wage-labourers gathered into ubran masses proximate to sites of pro- duction, disciplined variously by punitive middle-class managers; persistent pro- spect of unemployment; collective agreements between capitalists and trade un- ions; strict hierarchy and bureaucratization; rigid, specialized job classifications; separation of interests of employed and unemployed; repudiation of radicalism;  creation and maintenance of mass markets able to absorb surfeit of consumer goods yielded by increasingly productive and efficient manufacturing techniques; consistent generation of demand for goods; management of desire in culture of mass consumption; new communication technologies (broadcast radio and televi- 12 sion) as media for manufacturing of mass culture; opinion polling, market research and advertising as means for management of mass audience and market;  mass persuasion through advertising; profitability required masses to be able to purchase goods thez had been induced to desire balancing low labour costs (au- tomation, low wages) with purchasing power amongst consuming class; capitalist state must be prepared to intervene to offset cyclical market failures and restore equilibrium  Keynesian welfare state: income redistribution, unemployment in- surance, labour and market regulation, collectivization of mass education and healthcare costs, counter-cyclical public spending o prop up demand in times of re- cession  centralized, regulatory state provides stable conditions for mass pro- 4 Network Society by Darin Barney (2004) duction and mass consumption within territorially defined national units  First sign of instability: 1960w countercultural social movement which rejected spirit of mass society; 1970s economic and political foundations under strain: do- mestic markets saturated  penetration into foreign markets in search for un- tapped demand; downward pressure on employment and wage levels  labour unrest, strikes  relocation of production to jurisdictions where labour was less organized, underocompensated and more easily managed; rising unemployment and inflation outpaced ability of welfare states to compensate and stabilize de- mand; difficult to redistribute diminishing fruits of Fordist prosperity and provide 13 levels of general welfare (housing, health care, education);  Capitalist response to crisis: flexibility, inspired by success of East Asian (especially Japanese) economies  Changes in production: rigid mass manufacturing -> flexible Toyotism; economies of scale -> economies of scope; mass production of standardized goods -> small batch production of variable product types; task segmentation -> production from initiation to finishing and individual multitasking; limited individual judgement, craft and skill reintroduced; Taylorist hierarchical management structures and standardization of operational processes -> flattened hierarchies and limited de- centralization of decision making by ‘teams’ with increased discretion, better knowledge of scope of enterprise, and enhanced responsibility for quality of pro- ductive output;  Changes in workforce: fully employed mass proletariat -> small and shrinking core group of highly skilled workers and larger growing group of non-traditional em- ployment categories; dismantling of established well-defined job classifications and working conditions/compensation arrangements; volatility, insecurity and li- 14 quidity in the labour market; qualification in relatively static craft and skill sets -> continuous retraining in response to technological innovation  increased flexibility with which labour could be deployed in relation to economic fluctuations and market conditions; decreased rates of unionization; diminishing level of power on part of organized workers and their representatives  consumption ethic: flexible specialization has complementary ethic of consump- tion: pluralized/individualized consumption (‘mass customization’); massive quan- tities of consumer goods and services that are more standardized than customized, yet the degree of variation in the properties of the goods is an effective technique for regeneration and management of demand -> consumption is perceived o be custom- 15 ized, pluralized and specialized -> market reproduces itself by expressing superfi- cial preferences  role of the state: provide conditions for flexibility, innovation and competitiveness; Thatcher (UK), Reagan (USA), Mulroney (CANADA); retreat of public role of state in economic matters: privatization of state enterprises; market deregulation; decen- tralization of state authority; lowering barriers to mobility of capital and labour; decrease taxation; privatization/devolution of
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