As clearly noted in Manuel Castells “Why networks matter” networks are an integral part of all the dimensions in our society. Networks have existed since the existence of man, but today’s networks are far more interlinked and flexible than the pre-historic networks we might find in the Stone Age due to the advancements in technology.
An interesting point that that Castells points out is that power resides in the networks that form this society. It does not lie within the institutions or the state. I recently did a trip to China and found this to be contradictory. The state does hold a lot of the power. This is partly because it controls and restricts the networks within the Chinese society. Anyone who’s been to mainland China will know that youtube, facebook and twitter are blocked. Why? Because the government controls the network so that it does not lose its power.
I also noticed that government officials hold a lot of power. This is contrary to what Castells has said that there are no power elite. I discovered that your “关系” (guanxi) which is the chinese word for connections/networks, can get you to a lot of places. It’s common knowledge that privately owned companies are able to get big state projects due to a personal connection behind the scenes. Former Fairfax China correspondent John Garnaut noted in his article “China inside out” that having the right connections can get you anything, “guanxi reigned supreme”. In China power resides in particular individuals. Even though you may have retired from a particular post a long time ago you still have considerable influence and power. The network is empowering the elite, however I discovered that even though you may no longer be a current, active part of the network, power and influence still resides within the individual. Connections is like the ladder when you play snakes and and ladders. It’ll get you up there without you having to do as much work as all the others did.
Garnaut, John 2013; China inside out; the Sydney Morning Herald; http://www.smh.com.au/world/china-inside-out-20130607-2nvnw.html