Castells has been an adviser to numerous international bodies, including the International Labour Office, US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Brazil, whose pro-US and pro-International Monetary Fund ex-president Fernando Cardoso remains a friend. Castells’ key interest for most of his career has been with social movements and “post-industrial society,” or the “network society” and the power of identity and social movements.
According to Castells, power now rests in networks: “the logic of the network is more powerful than the powers of the network.” Some readings of his work are of relevance to the activities of ERA (which Castells advises):
- "The inclusion/exclusion logic of the network 'switches off . . . people and territories dubbed as irrelevant from the perspective of dominant interests' (Castells in Nyíri, 2004, p. 7). This enforces domination: '[d]omination depends . . . on the simultaneous capacity of . . . elites to articulate themselves and disarticulate the masses' [...]. Groups may choose to develop their own networks with their own goals, but if they wish to interact with the dominant networks in society they must adapt to the goals of those networks."
This work also offers a critique of Castells whereby it occludes the role of capital:
- "Again, the informational mode of development appears to be autonomous of – and in fact supersedes – the capitalist material base. A meritocratic model, of course, sidesteps the social and historical process – affected by factors such as wealth, education, and social relationships – by which labor is created: of how individual workers come to be self-programmable, generic, or irrelevant. [...] The true logic of the system is the logic of the networks. But this is not new. Marx wrote (quoted in Garnham, 2001, p. 240):
- The function fulfilled by the capitalist is no more than the function of capital – viz. the valorization of value by absorbing living labor – executed consciously and willingly. The capitalist functions only as personified capital, capital as a person, just as the worker is no more than labor personified."
In the comments on the covers of Castells' trilogy on the information age Anthony Giddens (sitting next to Castells in ERA) claims it is not fanciful to compare the work to Max Weber's Economy and Society. Peter Hall compares it to Marx's Capital. Alain Touraine calls it a 21st century classic in advance. According to Fernando Cardoso, ex-president of Brazil, this is 'a masterpiece, which discloses the logic of the system of contemporary civilisations, bringing to light the meaning of information societies.' Others (such as van Dijk cited below) see it as mere trend spotting.
- Greg Palast, "How The US Seized Power In Brazil", Greg Palast website, accessed October 2008