forwarded paper - Part 1

Thu, 12 Mar 1998 12:40:44 -0700 (MST)
Glenn Muschert (

This is a paper forwarded on behalf of Peter Waterman. It is in two
parts, and can also be accessed at the Manifesto Seminar web page at:

Glenn W. Muschert
Department of Sociology
University of Colorado at Boulder
Campus Box 327
Boulder, CO 80309-0327 U.S.A.
voice: 303.492.1415



A review article

Peter Waterman

Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture.
Blackwell Publishers: Malden (Mass) and Oxford. Vol. I: The Rise of the
Network Society. 1996. 556pp. Vol. II: The Power of Identity. 1997. 461pp.
Vol. III: End of Millennium. 1998. 418pp.

All that is solid melts into air. (Marx and Engels, The Communist
Manifesto [1848] 1998).

By the time Marx's proletarians finally appear, the world stage on which
they were supposed to play their part has disintegrated and metamorphosed
into something unrecognisable, surreal, a mobile construction that shifts
and changes under the players' fee t. It is as if the innate dynamism of
the melting vision has run away with Marx and carried him - and the
workers, and us - far beyond the range of his intended plot, to a point
where his revolutionary script will have to be radically reworked.
(Marshal B erman, All That is Solid Melts into Air. [1982] 1989: 91-2).

I do believe that there is a new world emerging in this end of
millennium... Yet this is not the point I want to make. My main statement
is that it does not really matter if you believe that this world, or any
of its features, is new or not. My analysis s tands by itself...After all,
if nothing is new under the sun, why bother to try and investigate, think,
write, and read about it? (Manuel Castells, End of Millenium.1998).

Introduction: critical sociology discovers the network

It is some 16 years since liberal theorists or ideologues began
telling us that our world was being transformed by networking and/or
globalisation (Lipnack and Stamps 1982, Naisbitt 1982). I found Naisbitt
in an airport bookstall while doing a little glo bal networking of my own.
He told us about the Ten (corporate-friendly) Megatrends that were
Transforming our Lives. These were 1) Industrial Society to Information
Society; 2) Forced Technology to High Tech/High Touch; 3) National Economy
to World Econom y; 4) Short Term to Long Term; 5) Centralisation to
Decentralisation; 6) Institutional Help to Self Help; 7) Representative
Democracy to Participatory Democracy; 8) Hierarchies to Networking; 9)
North to South; 10) Either/Or to Multiple Option. Underneath
the glibness, the hype, and the uniquely US symbiosis of optimism,
omnipotence and naivety, I could see profound transformations being
addressed. I asked myself why a book of this type had not been written by
a socialist in a more people-friendly/corpora te unfriendly spirit. The
answer is that until - say - 1989 the left was still playing out its role
as the counter-culture of national and industrial capitalism.
Globalisation was still called `internationalisation', `imperialism' or
`the new internationa l division of labour', and thought of in solely
political-economic terms. The `information society' was bourgeois
ideology. We networked but hardly talked about it, far less thought it
worthy of theorisation.

Over the last ten years or so, however, a number of prominent
radical sociologists, many associated with or sympathetic to the new
radical-democratic social movements, have been trying to offer their own
critical understanding of a society that is globa lised and/or
informatised and/or, in some problematic sense, `post-modern'. These
include Ulrich Beck (1992), Anthony Giddens (1990), Hall, Held and McGrew
(1992), David Harvey (1989, 1996), Alberto Melucci (1989), Mark Poster
(1984, 1990) and Boaventura de Sousa Santos (1995). They talk of 'complex
society', 'high modernity', 'radical modernity', 'risk society',
'post-traditional society', 'the mode of information', the need for a
`historical/geographical materialism' or for `a new commonsense'. (Women a
nd feminists seem to have been pre-occupied with other urgent matters,
though actively contributing to discussion of informatisation, as with
Spender 1995, Turkle 1997). This work has certainly represented a
breakthrough for the left. But I do not think a ny of the authors have
ever given Naisbitt or Lipnack and Stamps as much as a dismissive wave of
the hand.

Now Manuel Castells has boldly gone where no critical sociologist
has gone before, to tell us that it actually is a globalised network
society. Although, in this magisterial work, Castells strikes many notes
that have been struck by the earlier-listed wr iters, this is a
pathbreaking book. Anthony Giddens, himself no mean sociological
innovator, considers it comparable to Weber's Economy and Society (Giddens

There is no way that I can, in a short review (say one percent of
the work itself) do minimal justice to a book that not only spans the
globe but also touches on so many different social practices. My personal
interests and capacities will have to limit,
colour and shape this essay. My capacities may reveal themselves. As for
my interests, these may be suggested by the following: I have just
finished a work on globalisation, civil society and solidarity (Waterman
Forthcoming), have likewise completed the
co-editing of a work on the future of trade unionism globally (Munck and Waterman Forthcoming); and I am thinking of a new book on globalisation, communication and solidarity. As for my own position within (or without) the left, this could be characteris
ed as `liberation marxist', or as `radical-democratic', with these implying an engaged and critical relationship to the `real movement that changes the present order of things'. For Marx, from whom this last phrase is borrowed, this was the working-class
movement. For myself it certainly includes this but only as one of the potentially radical-democratic social movements potentially addressing themselves to our globalised and informatised world. My more literal position - I mean in space and time - whils
t reading this work has been one of both global mobility and life change. I have carried these volumes around with me over a good part of a year, both literally and metaphorically, considering them in the light of my travels, and then my differentially gl
obalised places of stay in the light of the work. I have also considered Castells in relationship to my own transition from a second age of full-time employment in Development Studies to a third one of...what? Maybe the use and study of information and co
mmunication technology for the development of a global solidarity culture?

Having recently struggled to produce my own understanding of
Things to Come, I have felt both reassured and challenged by Castells'
work. How I understand it is as follows: that the world taking shape
around us, and giving new shape to even familiar proc esses, institutions,
movements and values, has to be increasingly understood in communicational
and cultural terms. This reading may be a partial one that ignores quite
extensive parts of the whole. But I would argue that it is a useful way of
both enteri ng and ordering this rich and ambitious work. It also draws
dramatic attention to the distance Castells has moved from Marxism. This
was brought home to me by a recent feminist critique of the
anti-culturalism of traditional Marxists (Butler 19998). It w as not,
however, the political-economic fixation of the criticised traditionalists
that impressed me. It was that the critic was putting her energy into
convincing them of the relevance of culture and identity movements to
political-economy! Castells is q uite at home with political economy, as
with a Marxist political-economic critique and socialist moral
condemnation of capitalism. He knows that our brave new world is
fundamentally capitalist, but he also knows it is of a profoundly
different kind. What is different is the increasing shift of culture and
communication to the centre, with all the implications this has for
domination and emancipation. Castells has no taste for revolution, at
least in its classical political-economic sense, but, in spelling
this out, he has written a revolutionary work.

A sketch of the work: an encyclopaedia con brio

What, firstly, does this massive opus look like? The answer is: a
little like Gaudi's Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona, in Castells'
native Catalonia: a piece of modern baroque, simultaneously monumental and
full of mazes and blind alleys, pleasures a nd puzzles. The three volumes
(henceforth CI, II and III) add up to over 1,400 pages. I think this may
be more than either the Holy Bible (TI and II), or Das Kapital (MI and
II). CI and II appear to me to be focused in turn on what used to be
called the ' base' - technology and political economy - and the
'superstructure' - politics, ideology, social movements. The reference
here to industrial-age Marxism seems appropriate in so far as Castells
comes from this tradition and does not so much dismiss as surp ass it,
whilst, I would argue, retaining much of the materialism, the
social-movement inspiration and address.

Each book has an Introduction, with the Prologue to CI acting for
the project as whole. CI and II each have a Conclusion of ten or less
pages which stands alone as a thought-provoking essay. Each of the three
has a brief summary of the other volumes, en abling readers to relate the
part to the whole. Each volume, and many parts of each volume can, I
think, be similarly read independently. CIII has a 25-page General
Conclusion. My feeling is that, at this point, Castells must have been as
exhausted by his writing as I was by my reading. It lacks some of the
earlier energy and hope. And, as we will later see, it raises other

Castells warns us, incidentally, that since he does not believe in
the base-superstructure model, he has not confined his first two volumes
to the foci I have identified. CI, thus, covers not only the infotech
revolution (Part 1), economic globalisation (Part 2), the networked
enterprise (Part 3), labour (Part 4) but also the culture of the
electronic media, space and time (Parts 5-7). C2 does not begin with
politics and ideology but with identity and meaning (Part 1), continuing
with insurgent, environ mental and feminist movements (Parts 2-4). It ends
with the transformation of the state and the crisis of democracy (Parts
5-6). In an explicit attempt to avoid what I call Westocentrism, his
analyses give considerable attention to what we used to call th e Second
and Third Worlds: to their place in the latest international divisions of
labour, to Chinese business networks, to Islamic and indigenous social
movements, to national movements in the ex-USSR, to women's movements in
Latin America and Taiwan, to the crisis of the Mexican state. Oh, yes, and
he also has things to say about New Age music, changes in the life-cycle,
Barcelona airport, and Chinese technological development in and from the
14th century.

From Castells' earlier trailer for CIII I had thought it was going
to be `everything Castells could not get into CI and II'. So it turns out
to be, dealing with such diverse topics as the collapse of the Soviet
Union, social exclusion, Africa, the `wasti ng' of children, globalised
and informatised crime, the Pacific basin and the European Union. This
does not at all mean that CIII is mere padding, simply that it does not
advance the underlying argument. And that we have to confront the oddity
of being pr ovided with hundreds of pages of analysis after having dealt
with the forces for transformation. Volume III does, however, do us one or
two considerable favours. The first is its concept of the Fourth World
(CIII, Ch. 2, 70-165). This Fourth World include s under one term Africa,
the inner-city ghettos of the United States, and what is being done to
children and childhood. The Fourth World is a paradoxical concept in so
far as Castells seems not to believe in either a Third World or its
`development'. (But , then, as either a liberal or radical concept,
capable of either explaining or changing anything, `development' has
surely long passed its sell-buy date). His Fourth World reveals the extent
to which the phenomena that Development Studies confined to its
Third World are both international (found everywhere) and global (produced by universalising processes). Perhaps, to avoid people searching in his work or world for the Third one, Castells should have called this one the Underworld. But that would have c
reated confusion with what now follows.

This is the second favour in CIII, the chapter on globalised crime
(CIII, Ch. 3: 166-205). It deals with that part of the capitalist economy
that capitalists consider illegal, illegitimate, an obstacle to progress,
or an embarrassment. Capitalism always treads a fine and often arbitrary
line between the legal and the illegal. This line is becoming increasingly
blurred as capitalists - and politicians - treat the market as the sole
source of ethics and as they are involved in ever-more ferocious competiti
on. As capitalists and politicians are involved in more and more shady
deals, so criminals seek to reverse Proundhon's dictum by turning theft
into property. Castells' treatment of the criminal economy reveals its
massive stimulation by, and profound infl uence on, a globalised and
informatised capitalist economy, politics and culture. The criminal
economy is, Castells points out, a part of capitalism little analysed and
less theorised by social scientists. Perhaps left social scientists first
require it t o consist of transnational corporations, producing something
`material' and quoted on the New York Stock Exchange? Yet the drugs
economy is actually bigger than the oil one. Castells will be no doubt
delighted to know that the comedian (of whom more below ) has seen what
the scientists are blind to:

[W]hy doesn't a company like General Motors sell crack?...For every pound
of cocaine that is transformed into crack, a dealer stands to make a
profit of $45,000...Crack is also safer to use than automobiles. Each
year, 40,000 people die in car accidents. Crack, on the other hand, kills
only a few hundred people a year. And it doesn't pollute [...] If we
wouldn't let GM sell crack because it destroys our communities, then why
do we let them close factories? That, too, destroys our communites.
(Original emp hasis. Moore 1997:254-5)

The argument: all the world's a network

Castells begins with a now-familiar post-1989 litany: of
technological innovation, capitalist de-structuring, mobility and
transformation, military threat and ecological destruction, the
globalisation of crime and corruption, the collapse of blocs, the d
isempowering of political parties, governments and the nation-state, the
rise of fundamentalist movements, the successes, divisions and confusions
of pluralistic and emancipatory ones. Globalisation here appears primarily
as domination and control. Castel ls argues that capitalism has, with
networking, achieved the pinnacle of its development, to the point at
which disembodied capital, in the process of its self-expansion, rules
over capitalists. Consistent with this Frankensteinian image is the idea
that society is increasingly dominated by a 'bipolar opposition between
the Net and the Self' (CI:3). This coincides with a similar binary
opposition between a global elite and what could be called, I suppose,
'people world-wide':

With the exception of a small elite of globalpolitans (half beings, half
flows), people all over the world resent loss of control over their lives,
over their environment, over their jobs, over their economies, over their
governments, over their countries , and, ultimately, over the fate of the
Earth. Thus, following an old law of social evolution, resistance
confronts domination, empowerment reacts against powerlessness, and
alternative projects challenge the logic embedded in the new global order,
increa singly sensed as disorder by people around the planet. (CII:69)

I will postpone discussion on nets, selves and flows. However we should
note that, contrary to the image of networking as emancipation - the
commonsense of our New Age managerial consultants, but also of
international NGOs and new social movements - its f irst appearance within
Castell's drama is as villain. The network here appears as a global
relationship of dominant forces, inspired by a universal instrumental
rationality. As for the self, it is defined no longer by what people do -
till the land, opera te the machine, feed the baby - but by their
self-identity, by what they (believe they) are. What they do identify with
is, moreover, not necessarily rational, tolerant and humane. It is often
an ideology or movement defined in defensive/aggressive terms,
with the non-believer or non-member as a less than fully-human Other.

In so far as Castells distinguishes between modes of production
(capitalist, socialist) and modes of development (industrial,
informational), the explosive and often destructive or marginalising
effect of the informational mode seem to nonetheless allow for an
alternative, post-capitalist civilisation, though none is spelled out by
him. I will return to this reluctance. In the meantime we are confronted,
worldwide, with a ruthless and efficient capitalist networking process
that undermines previous notio ns of the self, leaving masses of
differentially alienated, marginalised and exploited people to choose or
create a new collective sense of belonging that can provide both the
material and imaginary goods they lack. Who are these people and how do
they ac t?

Castells' significant new social actors are not simply those
familiar from the New (or Nice) Social Movement literature of the 1980s.
Whilst he gives much room to the ecological movement (CII, Ch.3) and those
around sexual rights and identities (CII, Ch. 4), he begins Volume II with
chapters on communal identity (religious, national, ethnic, local,
cultural) and on insurrections against globalisation, of both 'left' and
'right'. He starts this volume with the declaration that 'Our world, and
our lives, ar e being shaped by the conflicting trends of globalisation
and identity' (CII:1). He then distinguishes between three types of
identity: those of legitimation, of resistance and of project. The first
is one introduced top-down, as by the nation-state, and gives rise to a
civil society, providing an ambiguous terrain for
domination/confrontation. The second, coming out of a sense of exclusion,
results in the formation of communes or communities, as a basis for
'excluding the excluders'. The third produces ' social subjects',
collective social actors:

In this case the building of identity is a project of a different life,
perhaps on the basis of an oppressed identity, but expanding toward the
transformation of society as the prolongation of this project of in...a post-patriarchal society, liberating women, men, and
children, through the realisation of women's identity. Or...the final
reconciliation of all human beings as believers, brothers and sisters,
under the guidance of God's law... (CII:10)

'Project identities', then, are again not simply the
historically-progressive and ethically-approved ones. However, whilst
Castells gives methodological reasons for avoiding the categorisation of
contemporary social movements according to the traditional binaries, or
along a spectrum between them, he does seem to distinguish between those
that, in the face of globalisation, are reactive and those that are
proactive (CII:2). The former would seem to be those that are reactionary,
conservative, backward-loo king, militaristic, dogmatic or sectarian. The
latter would seem to correspond with his own values: of being rational
without being rationalistic, cognisant of different identities without
espousing individualism or fundamentalism, of favouring transforma tion
without utopian absolutism (CI:4). The lines between legitimising,
communal and project identities, between reactive and proactive
tendencies, seem to run within as well as between movements: the roots of
the proactive lie in the reactive movements; the proactive movements can,
apparently, contain their own extremisms. I am not sure, however, whether,
after this long march through the concepts, we do not eventually arrive
back to find, in new costume perhaps, the progressive, tolerant,
pluralistic, g lobally-conscious NSMs of yore. Nor whether Castells really
uses his own model to explore contradictory elements within his proactive

Communal zappers and global environmentalists

I am going to have to leave on one side Castells' reactive project
identity movements in order to concentrate on the proactive ones. This is
simply because I find the construction of such new social forces both an
urgent task and one that is problematic enough. We can consider Castells'
handling of the widely (not to say wildly) differing Zapatista movement in
Mexico and environmental movement worldwide, to see how he seems to
understand the proactive project identity movements within and against a
globa lised and networked capitalism (henceforth GNC).

The Zapatista movement has brought together a complex of
traditional (anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist) and
high-modern elements to create what Castells calls 'the first
informational guerrilla movement' (CII:72-80). Thus we find an incre
asingly pressurised and dispossessed peasantry, increasingly marginalised
ethnicities, a popular and radical Church, (ex)Maoists, an armed uprising,
identification with the Mexican Revolution, demands for
self-determination, national independence, politic al democratisation,
opposition to neo-liberalism - and the use of media (including the
Internet) as a basic strategy, not merely a tactical weapon. Whilst having
no particular expectations about the capacity of the Zapatistas to achieve
their none-too-cle ar ends, Castells recognises the manner in which, from
their communal base and resistance identity, they have already impacted on
not only the national state and civil society, but even on the global
arena, at least potentially (actually, according to Cle aver Forthcoming,
1998). It would seem, moreover, that an informational guerrilla is not
simply a guerrilla movement with information technology and sensitivity,
it is also a guerrilla within the media of a GNC. As we will later see,
there are more such g uerrillas, both within Castells (CII:328-323) and

The global environmental movement(s) seem, for Castells, to
represent for the information age what the labour movement did for the
industrial one. He points out their achievement, during a comparatively
short period of existence, in making environmentali sm part of the
political commonsense of our time. He recognises the movement's
multiplicity, in terms of its understandings, organisational forms and
social objectives, as well as in relative moderation or radicalism (up to
and including its own fundament alists). He stresses its ambiguous but
foundational relationship with science and technology, having begun as a
movement of scientists against dominant understandings and uses of
science. He records its challenge to the changes being currently wrought
by information capitalism in the understanding and use of time and space.
He tells us that it was the social movement that first developed
alternative use of computer-mediated communication. But he also recognises
the ambiguities that accompany this - as any - successful social movement,
namely its institutionalisation and adaptation within the society and by
the forces that it initially identified as the problem. At the same time,
however, he notes the appearance of an 'environmental justice' trend
within t he movement, with a capacity to both reach out to and make room
for the demands of women, poor urban communities, workers, the homeless,
rural and human-rights movement. Environmentalism, for Castells, appears
to provide the necessary understanding for a social transformation under
contemporary conditions:

The ecological approach...emphasises the holistic character of all forms
of matter and all information processing. Thus, the more we know, the more
we sense the possibilities of our technology, and the more we realise the
gigantic, dangerous gap between o ur enhanced productive capacities, and
our primitive, unconscious and ultimately destructive social organisation.
This is the objective threat that weaves the growing connectedness of
social revolts, local and global, defensive and offensive, issue-orient ed
and value-oriented...This is not to say that a new international of
good-willing, generous citizens has emerged. Yet...this is to say that
embryonic connections between grassroots movements and symbol-oriented
mobilisations on behalf of environmental j ustice bear the mark of
alternative projects. These projects hint at superseding the exhausted
social movements of industrial society, to resume, under historically
appropriate forms, the old dialectics between domination and resistance,
between realpolit ik and utopia, between cynicism and hope. (CII:133)

Here, again, one hears echoes of the (self-understanding of the) old
labour movement, which itself was once identical to or closely articulated
with the social movement, the democratic movement and the international of
goodwill and generosity. To consider such echoes, as well as to examine
the general relationship Castells finds between the old and new social
movements, I will turn next to the two I myself use when
comparing/contrasting the old and the new. But first we should note, I
think, that Castells does not look as critically as he might at the
ecological movements, which are as full of intra- and inter-network
problems, tensions and conflicts as the old labour movement. He does not
really, moreover, go into his environmental justice tendency (c.f.
Harvey 1996:Ch. 13), which would have allowed or required him to consider
the class address and composition of environmental movements also.

Old labour and new women

Castells' analysis of the literally destructive, dispersing,
heterogenising and individualising impact of a GNC on labour is one
familiar from what I call 'critical and committed globalisation theory'
(Waterman Forthcoming: Ch. 7). He argues that whilst there is no such
thing as a global labour force (in the sense that there is globally-mobile
capital), there is increasing interdependence between local and localised
labour forces as a result of 1) global employment in multinational
corporations and their cross-border networks, 2) the impacts of
international trade on employment and conditions both North and South, and
3) the local effects of global competition and flexible management. If
this suggests simply a new terrain for organised labour action (one
that is being belatedly recognised by the institutionalised labour
movement internationally), his conclusions about a continuing labour
identity and capacity for (inter)national action are grim (CI:474-475).
Work and labour are not going to disappear und er the new mode, but
labour's relationship with capital is being transformed. Labour is
localised, disaggregated in performance, fragmented in organisation,
diversified in its existence and divided in its collective activity. Under
a networked and continu ally reshaped capitalism, it is difficult to even
identify the owners, producers, managers and servants:

[W]hile capitalist relationships of production still and
labour increasingly tend to exist in different spaces and times: the space
of flows and the space of places...Thus they live by each other, but do
not relate to each other. Capital tends to escape in its hyperspace of
pure circulation, while labour dissolves its collective entity into an
infinite variation of individual existences...The struggle between diverse
capitalists and miscellaneous working classes is subsumed into the more
fundamental opposition between the bare logic of capital flows and the
cultural values of human experience. (CI:475-476)

So labour continues to exist but the labour movement has no
transformatory or emancipatory capacity. And for this reason the labour
movement has no chapter, or, indeed, existence in CII. As for the urban
social movement, to which Castells in the past de voted a major work
(Castells 1983), it has only a walk-on part (CII 60-65). This is
consistent with his general thesis about the relative weight, under a GNC,
of self-identity compared with social role or position. Are labour
organisations simply to remai n in the wings of social protest? Can they
only contribute in so far as they and their organisations prioritise
feminist and ecological over - or at least alongside - labour issues? The
answer seems to be yes and yes:

[L]abour unions are influential political actors in many countries. And in
many instances they are the main, or the only, tools for workers to defend
themselves against abuses from capital and from the state. Yet...the
labour movement does not seem fit to generate by itself and from itself a
project identity able to reconstruct social control and to rebuild social
institutions in the Information Age. Labour militants will undoubtedly be
a part of new, transformative social dynamics. I am less sure that la bour
unions will. (CII:360)

If people, as workers and as urban residents, seem to lose emancipatory
significance in Castells' new world order, the opposite seems to be the
case for women, in a chapter concerned with gender, the family and
sexuality. The development of a movement aro und women's rights, family
structure and sexual orientation, comes over from Castells as more
revolutionary than anything of a class-like character. In CII women get,
along with Castells' other social movements, a chapter, including a
section on feminism as global.

But let us first consider the relationship between a GNC and the
end of patriarchalism. Castells roots patriarchy, in its most diverse and
general forms, in the family. And whilst he recognises the contribution of
earlier feminist movements to the presen t crisis of the patriarchal
family, he ties this crisis more immediately to ongoing changes in the
economy, labour market, reproductive technology and a globalised and
networked capitalism. The last nail in the coffin is, however, the
diffusion of feminis t ideas in a globalised and interconnected world and
culture. Castells seems to think that the breakdown of the traditional
patriarchal family, and the consequent search for substitutes or
compensations for this, leads to the creation of a less-authoritar ian and
more-experimental personality. Whilst he does not relate this to the end
of capitalism, he does seem to see it as a necessary accompaniment of a
more general social transformation, or of a more civilised global society.

Castells recognises the fragmentation/differentiation of feminisms
nationally and internationally, nonetheless insisting on 1) a commonality
(if not an essence) in the de- and reconstruction of womanhood in
independence of and opposition to the partiarch ally-imposed role, and 2)
this differentiation as a source of strength in a society characterised by
networking and flexibility in power struggles. Whilst recognising that, in
many parts of the world, feminist consciousness is the possession only of
an ed ucated elite of women, he also includes as feminist the practical or
social struggles of women who do not necessarily define themselves as
such. Although he does not actually concern himself with the movement as
global (in my book - both literal and figur ative - inter-related,
co-ordinated and even integrated), he certainly shows it to be a
world-wide one.

Castells writes off the old labour movement too easily. And he
tends to give the women's and sexual rights ones the image previously
accorded by socialists to labour. He here reproduces the much-criticised
`new social movement' theory opposition between interest and identity, old
and new. The admittedly old labour movement was as concerned with values,
ideas, images and utopias as the admittedly new - or renewed - women's
movement. Most women's movements are intensely engaged with women's
interests (and feminists with argument about them). Conversely, there are
signs of movement within the labour movement internationally. I am not
talking here of the 'new labour movements' of the 1980s, like the Polish,
South Korean, Brazilian or South African ones. Nor am I referring to those
labour specialists inspired by such movements, such as Kim Moody (1997),
whose energetic socialist defence of autoworkers internationally - and
autoworker internationalism - is innocent of any insight into the TV they
watch, the ai r they both pollute and breath, the 40,000 US citizens
directly killed, Michael Moore tells us, by their products. These unions
and specialists are, indeed, still largely trapped within roles and values
related to national and industrial capitalism. I am thinking of moments,
movements, and even organisations, that are beginning to respond to the
new social subjects, new social issues and new social movements that
Castells identifies. A national trade union confederation organising a
conference of its gay, lesbian and bisexual members is really something
new (Kinsman 1997). Castells might take this as merely evidence for his
argument, that labour becomes a movement in so far as it takes up the new
cultural or identity issues. However, there is beginning to
be a new body of writing which 1) recognises the general situation
Castells so graphically portrays, 2) is an agreement on the necessity
articulation or imbrecation of labour and the newer social movements, but
which 3) argues for the possibility of, and necessity for, what we might
call a 'new social labour movement', that relates to an informatised and
globalised capitalism (Munck and Waterman Forthcoming). This is, after
all, the only international social movement that consists of poor and
increasingl y impoverished people, and which is customarily led by people
of this same low-class social origin. If we fail to address them, they
will be `identified' either by right-wing fundamentalists (as in France,
India or Poland) or by left-wing ideologues who, if not fundamentalist,
are tilting at the windmills of an earlier capitalism.

As I have suggested, certain national and international labour
movements/trade union organisations are beginning to respond to their
global crisis in a way that reveals their learning from the movements
Castells identifies with (John and Chenoy 1996, Dan ish Industrial Workers
Union 1997). Writers on unionism are beginning to consider their possible
and necessary reinvention in the light of globalisation and
informatisation (Catalano Forthcoming, Hyman Forthcoming A and B). These
are not only those from t he socialist tradition. William Grieder, whose
book title honours Wendell Wilkie, investigates both old and new labour
movements worlwide before concluding:

If organised labour does not wither and disappear, as some expect, it will
have to reinvent itself[...]Different institutional arrangemens emerged
for labour in the advanced economies...but none of these may fit the
social reality in developing nations. A s new labour movements [also in
developed nations? - PW] struggle to gain strength, they may find they
have to devise a different model grounded in their own cultures - a labour
organisation that is perhaps closer to the civic organisations that have
spru ng up to speak for community and society, for human rights, the
environment and economic justice. In any case, if the old version of free
trade unions should founder and disappear, then people and societies will
have to invent something to take their plac e - an organised voice that
carries the fight for these universal aspirations. (Grieder 1997:415)

On the other hand, and Castells not withstanding, differences and
conflicts within the women's movement cannot be simply seen as a source of
flexibility and creativity. The women's movement in Latin America, for
example, has, since 1996, been in a conditi on of some crisis due to 1)
the devastating social impact of neo-liberal globalisation, 2) the
movement's extensive ongizacion (ngo-isation), 3) its over-concentration
on the national and international state-political sphere and, finally, 4)
an ultra-radi cal response to this crisis that reproduces, in both word
and deed, the style of male ultra-leftism in the labour movement (Alvarez
1997, Waterman 1997). This is how one feminist spoke of the 7th Latin
American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter, held in Ca rtagena, Chile,

What one can say about this encounter is that the Latin American
and Caribbean feminist movement forms part of the social and political map
of the region; because of this it cannot avoid bleeding from the wound
that affects the left and all the social a nd political movements of the
continent: the traditional forms of doing politics, self-centred,
non-dialogical, punitive, messianic, incapable of confronting strategies,
of dissolving spaces of power without fracturing, perplexed before this
enemy without a face that is neoliberalism and its postmodernity. (Gobbi

The problem, it seems, is not that labour is no longer the, or a,
privileged emancipatory subect but that that there are no such privileges,
only potentials, and that such potentials have to be sought for and
released. Continuous reinvention would seem to
be the requirement of any emancipatory movement.

++ Continued in Part 2 ++