Manuel Castells

2013 Balzan Prize for Sociology

For his wide-ranging and imaginative thinking through of the implications of the great technological changes of our time: the digital revolution and the profound social and political challenges brought about by the emerging technologies of communication and information processing associated with computing, microelectronics, and the Internet. For having proposed a general theory of the new global information society that has arisen out of these technologies.

Manuel Castells has within his own discipline provided the most wide-ranging and penetrating contribution to the analysis and interpretation of the great technological revolutions of our time. He has since the 1990s identified and studied the myriad connections and relations which link the digital revolution with the profound social, cultural, economic and political changes which have taken place.

In his great trilogy, The Information Age, published between 1996 and 1998 (translated into 21 languages), Manuel Castells elaborates an innovative and comprehensive theory of the emerging, information-based society that is being created by rapidly evolving technologies. He terms this new society: “the network society”. Our societies are increasingly organized around networks through which various kinds of resources circulate: information, money, goods, technology and people. This effectively creates a much more open, fluid and dynamic society; it also however creates new forms of instability in different domains of social life, from economic to personal relations as well as introducing new sources and networks of power. Manuel Castells illuminates the relationship between information society and these burgeoning movements and genesis of collective identity, where reactions to the growth of this network society are accompanied by the emergence of new forms of identity and collective action which challenge and weaken the dominant structures of power, giving rise to new sources and varieties of social and political change.

These and other themes are examined with great rigour and originality in the three volumes of The Information Age and in many subsequent works, such as The Internet Galaxy (2001), Communication Power (2009) and Networks of Outrage and Hope (2012).

Thus, the academic output of Manuel Castells, which combines a robust theoretical framework with wide-ranging empirical research, represents an extremely valuable contribution in terms of contemporary social theory to the interpretation and understanding of the evolution of contemporary society.

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