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Profile of Manuel Castells

Since we are reading The Power of Identity for our class, I thought that some of you might be interested in a brief biographical sketch of Manuel Castells. You can view his profile page on the Annenberg School, USC website. His curriculum vitae also makes for an interesting read.


I am trying to get my head around what constitutes a "public intellectual" (sort of as a follow up to Gitlin's lecture). It seems to me that this is a term that is tossed around but that people have some very differing opinions about. In other words, should we be suspicious of all intellectuals or WANT to have some that help to inform and guide movements?

As I was reading Castells (and looking at his incredible CV...a little intimidating, no?), would we say that Castells is a model intellectual? In that 1) he is analyzing public isssues/policies/and launching a "model of society"; 2) he is active in and has witnessed some of the various movements he writes about (or apparently advises lots of work on the other movements), and 3) does critique the present day condition. Given this, I could see citizens reading this and being motivated to take up or join a movement to address some of the various conditions he outlines.

At the same time, is he still a public intellectual without putting forth a specific plan or policy for others to follow? We have noted in class that he does kinda play all sides of each scenario with specifically pointing out what he would prefer or how we limit the negative consequences of some of all that is going on here.

Any thoughts? I am definitely curious about this term "public intellectual".

I too was thinking about the role of public intellectuals while reading Castells. In fact, in his conclusion I feel like he hints at what the role of a public intellectual could be with regards to social movements. He discusses the fact that while resistance identities are pervasive in the network society, they rarely communicate with the state or with other social movements. Most project identities (successful movements?) evolve out of resistance identities, so perhaps the job of the public intellectual is to faciliate communication- to think ways that social movements could be in dialogue with each other or with the state- with an eye towards articulating a multiplicity of project identities, or, in Laclau and Mouffe's terms, a hegemonic struggle capable of effecting substantive change within the network society.

Julie's comment is interesting and I think that she has something to that. In writing my theoretical paper this past weekend, I was also thinking what the role of academics should be in our disciplines and in the public. This might be a large generalization, but it seems there was lots of theory devlopment/invention in the 1980s/1990's in communication studies (thinking of advancing constitutive rhetoric, critical rhetoric, etc. etc.). So what should our role be now? Could it be to synthesize and even make connections within our own discipline to make coherent narratives and "expertise"? To pull together the various strands of thought and theory we have to be able to put them to good use in the public? In some respects, I think that Castells is trying to pull lots together in his book, which might be similar what we can do with theory for ourselves...

Perhaps this has been going on in our discipline all along as well, or maybe it is not necessary...what do you all think?