Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society


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Type of work: Article (academic)


Information Society | Sociology


This article aims at proposing some elements for a grounded theory of the network society. The network society is the social structure characteristic of the Information Age, as tentatively identified by empirical, cross-cultural investigation. It permeates most societies in the world, in various cultural and institutional manifestations, as the industrial society characterized the social structure of both capitalism and statism for most of the twentieth century.

Social structures are organized around relationships of production/consumption, power, and experience, whose spatio-temporal configurations constitute cultures. They are enacted, reproduced, and ultimately transformed by social actors, rooted in the social structure, yet freely engaging in conflictive social practices, with unpredictable outcomes. A fundamental feature of social structure in the Information Age is its reliance on networks as the key feature of social morphology. While networks are old forms of social organization, they are now empowered by new information/communication technologies, so that they become able to cope at the same time with flexible decentralization, and with focused decision-making. The article examines the specific interaction between network morphology and relationships of production/consumption, power, experience, and culture, in the historical making of the emerging social structure at the turn of the Millennium.