Manuel Castells

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Born 1942 in Hellín, Albacete, Spain. Sociologist. Raised primarily in Barcelona as part of a conservative family, Castells became politically active in the student anti-Franco movement as a teenager. Because of his political activism, he had to flee the country, going to Paris to finish his degree at the age of 20. After completing a doctorate in Sociology at the University of Paris, he taught at the university between 1967 and 1979, first at the Nanterre Campus, from which he was expelled after the 1968 student protest, then, from 1970 to 1979, 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. He is a founding member of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and a senior member of the Center's Faculty Advisory Council. Castells is also a member of the Annenberg Research Network on International Communication. He received numerous honorary doctorates and other honors in recognition of his work.

Castells lives in Barcelona and Santa Monica, 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. In response to the critical reception of that work at a number of large seminars held at universities across the world, a second edition was published in 2000.

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 hierarchies 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)
  • Social Uses of Wireless Communications: The Mobile Information Society, paper prepared for the International Workshop on Wireless Communication Policies and Prospects: A Global Perspective, USC, October 8-9, 2004 (co-author)

Books on Manuel Castells

  • Susser, Ida. The Castells Reader on Cities and Social Theory. Oxford, Blackwell (2002)
  • Castells, Manuel; Ince, Martin. Conversations with Manuel Castells. Oxford, Polity Press (2003)
  • Stalder, Felix. Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Oxford, Polity Press (2006)