Economics, the Network Society, and the Ontology of Violence

  • Steven L. ArxerEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Social Policy, Administration, and Practice book series (IPSPAP)


The notion of a network society was popularized in the 1980s with the rise of novel information and computer technologies. According to Castells, a network society is one “whose social structure is made of networks powered by microelectronics-based information and communication technologies.” The explosive growth of the Internet, mobile devices, and microprocessors over the past several decades has helped to make the term “network” commonplace. In addition to media systems, workplaces and even familial relations are now commonly described as having the character of networks. This imagery is propelled further by economic, political, and migratory flows within a more globalized world. This network imagery suggests that institutions, practices, and relationships are structured on a new social model, and various monikers, such as lattice, matrix, system, and web, have been used to describe this emerging social formation. All of these metaphors intend to highlight new social conditions of decentralization, flexibility, and interconnectivity that characterize twenty-first-century society. Networks, in particular, are thought to offer an alternative to traditional, “centered” models of social order. Yet, in ways that are increasingly evident, this network imagery actually justifies the violence of global market relations. Despite its popularity and conceptual development, less attention has been paid to unraveling the ontology of the network society. In particular, basic assumptions about the nature of individuals, social organization, economies, and ethics are not necessarily forthcoming in conceptual descriptions of the network society. Investigating the ontological assumptions implied by network imagery is important because such analyses alert us to remaining challenges on the path to an open society.


Neoliberalism Violence Information Age Network society Symbolic violence Assimilation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology & Psychology DepartmentUniversity of North Texas at DallasDallasUSA

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