Manuel Castells

From Academic Kids

Manuel Castells (b. 1942 in Helln, (Albacete), Spain) is a sociologist. Between 1967 and 1979 he taught at the University of Paris, first at the Nanterre Campus, then, since 1970, at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. In 1979 he was appointed Professor of Sociology and Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2001 he also became a research professor at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Barcelona. In 2003 he joined the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School for Communication as a professor of communication and the first Wallis Annenberg endowed Chair of Communication and Technology.

Castells lives in Barcelona and Berkeley, California and is married to Emma Kiselyova.


During the 1970s Castells played a key role in the development of a Marxist urban sociology. He emphasized the role of social movements in the conflictive transformation of the urban landscape. He introduced the concept of 'collective consumption' (public transport, public housing, etc.) to frame a wide range of social struggles, displaced from the economic to the political field by state intervention. Abandoning the strictures of Marxism in the early 1980s, he began to focus on the role of new technologies in economic restructuring. In 1989, he introduced the concept of the 'space of flows' by which he meant the material and immaterial components of the global information networks through which more and more of the economy was coordinated, in real time across distances. In the 1990s, he combined both strands of his research into a massive study, Information Age, published as a trilogy between 1996 and 1998.

Castells analysis unfolds along three basic dimensions: production, power and experience. This stresses that the organization of the economy, of the state and its institutions, and of the ways people create meaning in their lives through collective action are irreducible sources of social dynamics. They need to be understood on their own terms as well as relating to one another. Applying such an analysis to the development of the Internet, Castells stresses the roles of the state (military, academia), the social movements (hackers, social activists) and of businesses in shaping the infrastructure according to their (conflicting) agendas.

In the trilogy, he condenses this view to the statement "our societies are increasingly structured around the bipolar opposition of the Net and the Self" (1996, p. 3). The Net means the new, networked forms of organization which are replacing vertically integrated hierachies as the dominant form of social organization. The Self, on the other hand, relates to the multiple practices through which people try to reaffirm identity and meaning in a landscape of rapid change. Castells also coined the term 4th World.


Manuel Castells is extraordinarily prolific. He has written more than 20 books. The most important are:

  • The Urban Question. A Marxist Approach (trans: Alan Sheridan). London, Edward Arnold (1977) (Original publication in French, 1972)
  • City, Class and Power. London; New York, MacMillan; St. Martins Press (1978)
  • The Economic Crisis and American Society. Princeton, NJ, Princeton UP (1980)
  • The City and the Grassroots: A Cross-cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements. Berkeley: University of California Press (1983)
  • The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban Regional Process. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell (1989)
  • The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell (1996) (second edition, 2000)
  • The Power of Identity, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. II. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell (1997) (second edition, 2004)
  • The End of the Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. III. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell (1998) (second edition, 2000)
  • The Internet Galaxy. Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society. Oxford UP (2001)
  • The Information Society and the Welfare State: The Finnish Model. Oxford UP, Oxford (2002), (co-author, Pekka Himanen)
  • The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, Edward Edgar (2004), (editor and co-author)

On-line resources

et:Manuel Castells es:Manuel Castells fi:Manuel Castells fr:Manuel Castells ja:マニュエル・カステル pl:Manuel Castells sv:Manuel Castells


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