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Manuel Castells
Manuel Castells en La Paz, Bolivia.jpg
Castells in 2017
Minister of Universities
Assumed office
13 January 2020
Monarch Felipe VI
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez
Preceded by Pedro Duque (Universities)
Personal details
Born 9 February 1942 (1942-02-09) (age 79)
Hellín, Albacete, Spain
Alma mater University of Paris
Known for Research on the information society, communication and globalization
Organization theory
Network society
Scientific career
Fields Sociology, urban planning, communication studies
Institutions University of Cambridge; University of Southern California; Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia); EHESS; University of Paris X: Nanterre
Doctoral students Ananya Roy Sasha Costanza-Chock
Other notable students Daniel Cohn-Bendit
Influences Alain Touraine

Manuel Castells Oliván ( born 9 February 1942) is a Spanish sociologist especially associated with research on the information society, communication and globalization.

In January 2020, he was appointed Minister of Universities in the Sánchez II Government of Spain.

Castells is the Full Professor of Sociology, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), in Barcelona. He is as well the University Professor and the Wallis Annenberg Chair Professor of Communication Technology and Society at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Additionally, he is the Professor Emeritus of Sociology, and Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught for 24 years and a fellow of St. John's College, University of Cambridge. He also, holds the chair of Network Society, Collège d’Études Mondiales, Paris.

The 2000–2014 research survey of the Social Sciences Citation Index ranks him as the world's fifth most-cited social science scholar, and the foremost-cited communication scholar.

In 2012, Castells was awarded the Holberg Prize, for having "shaped our understanding of the political dynamics of urban and global economies in the network society." Then, in 2013, he was awarded the Balzan Prize for Sociology.


Early life

Manuel Castells was born in 1942 to a Spanish-speaking family from Valencia. The family later moved to Barcelona, but it was it was back in one of his hometowns, La Mancha, where he learned to speak Catalan as a student, learning the language mainly for political reasons.

Coming from such a conservative family, Castells says:

"My parents were very good parents. It was a conservative family — very strongly conservative family. But I would say that the main thing that shaped my character besides my parents was the fact that I grew up in fascist Spain. It's difficult for people of the younger generation to realize what that means, even for the Spanish younger generation. You had actually to resist the whole environment, and to be yourself, you had to fight and to politicize yourself from the age of fifteen or sixteen".

Castells' father, Fernando Castells Adriaensens, was a finance inspector. His mother, Josefina Olivan Escartin, was an accountant. Both of his parents were civil servants with the Spanish Ministry of Finance.

Due to the fact that his father was moving up the career ladder in his finance inspector job throughout the beginning of Castells' life, most of his childhood was spent in Madrid, Cartagena, and Valencia.


Castells finished secondary school in Barcelona. Then, in 1958, when he was sixteen, which is two years in advance of the usual age for finishing secondary education, he started his studies at the University of Barcelona. At the University, he studied both Law and Economics.

He was politically active in the student Anti-Franco movement, an adolescent political activism that forced him to flee Spain for France. In Paris, at the age of 20, he completed his degree studies, then progressed to the University of Paris, where he earned a doctorate in Sociology. Castells graduated from the Sorbonne in 1964 and received his PhD from the University of Paris in 1967.

Academic career

At the age of twenty-four, Castells became an instructor in several Parisian universities from 1967 to 1979. First, at the Paris X University Nanterre (where he taught Daniel Cohn-Bendit), which fired him because of the 1968 student protests. Then, at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, from 1970 to 1979.

In 1979, the University of California, Berkeley appointed him as Professor of Sociology, and Professor of City and Regional Planning. In 2001, he was a research professor at the UOC-Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia), Barcelona. Then, in 2003, he joined the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School for Communication, as a Professor of Communication and the first Wallis Annenberg-endowed Chair of Communication and Technology. Castells is a founding member of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, and a senior member of the diplomacy center's Faculty Advisory Council and is a member of the Annenberg Research Network on International Communication.

Castells divides his residence between Spain and the US. Since 2008, he has been a member of the governing board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. He has been the Minister of Universities in Spain since January 2020 and is the father of one daughter and has two grandchildren.


The sociological work of Manuel Castells synthesises empirical research literature with combinations of urban sociology, organization studies, internet studies, social movements, sociology of culture, and political economy. About the origins of the network society, he posits that changes to the network form of enterprise predate the electronic internet technologies (usually) associated with network organization forms (cf. Organization theory (Castells)). Moreover, he coined the (academic) term "The Fourth World", denoting the sub-population(s) socially excluded from the global society; usual usage denotes the nomadic, pastoral, and hunter-gatherer ways of life beyond the contemporary industrial society norm.

Information Age

Castells maintains that the Information Age can "unleash the power of the mind", which would dramatically increase the productivity of individuals and lead to greater leisure, allowing individuals to achieve "greater spiritual depth and more environmental consciousness". Such change would be positive, he argues, in that it would cause resource consumption to decrease. The Information Age, The Age of Consumption, and The Network Society are all perspectives attempting to describe modern life as known in the present and to depict the future of society. As Castells suggests, contemporary society may be described as "replacing the antiquated metaphor of the machine with that of the network".

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture comprehends three sociological dimensions—production, power, and experience—stressing that the organisation of the economy, of the state and its institutions, and the ways that people create meaning in their lives through collective action, are irreducible sources of social dynamics—that must be understood as both discrete and inter-related entities. Moreover, he became an established cybernetic culture theoretician with his Internet development analysis stressing the roles of the state (military and academic), social movements (computer hackers and social activists), and business, in shaping the economic infrastructure according to their (conflicting) interests. The Information Age trilogy is his précis: "Our societies are increasingly structured around the bipolar opposition of the Net and the Self"; the "Net" denotes the network organisations replacing vertically integrated hierarchies as the dominant form of social organization, the Self denotes the practices a person uses in reaffirming social identity and meaning in a continually changing cultural landscape.


In the 1970s, following the path of Alain Touraine (his intellectual father), Castells was a key developer of the variety of Marxist urban sociology that emphasises the role of social movements in the conflictive transformation of the city (cf. post-industrial society). He introduced the concept of "collective consumption" (public transport, public housing, etc.) comprehending a wide range of social struggles—displaced from the economic stratum to the political stratum via state intervention.

Transcending Marxist structures in the early 1980s, he concentrated upon the role of new technologies in the restructuring of an economy. In 1989, he introduced the concept of the "space of flows", the material and immaterial components of global information networks used for the real-time, long-distance co-ordination of the economy.

Castells grew out and, essentially, stopped using Marxism because he did not find it useful to understand what he was studying at the time and due to the fact that his view of theory was extremely instrumental. Though he might not consider himself a Marxist anymore, he is still interested in social change, power relations, and technology, all of which are Marxist concerns.

In the 1990s, he combined his two research strands in The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, published as a trilogy, The Rise of the Network Society (1996), The Power of Identity (1997), and End of Millennium (1998); two years later, its worldwide, favourable critical acceptance in university seminars, prompted publication of a second (2000) edition that is 40 per cent different from the first (1996) edition.

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