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The Crisis of Neoliberal Network Society and its Outraged Opposition:

Manuel Castells’ Critical Perspective on Global Anxiety

Network society is structured around “Net vs. Self” opposition: abstract

instrumentalism (EU/Washington establishment) vs. particularistic identities (Brexit, Trump);

neoliberalism vs. populism. It’s a form of global centralization of capital standing against

populist configurations.

Free-trade agreements, precarious labour and financialization brought nationalist,

rarely leftist reaction (Sanders exception). Historically rooted identities are seeking to recover

the state sovereignty. But it’s not spontaneous. Network society’s institutions prevented the

possibility of Keynesian crisis management. Neoliberal austerity policies, that differentiate

economic from social domain (unlike welfare state), allowed only one alternative: populism.

Populism is not created by the people. It’s national capital’s response to transnational

capital. Castells’ theses that Steve Bannon constructed white middle class identity and that

political cognition is emotionally shaped are supported by the fact majority of Trump’s voters

were anxious, afraid and white. The nexus of national capital and particularistic identities

embodies an ideological formation for the unstable multipolar world.

Age of Anxiety is a product of struggle between transnational/national fractions of the

ruling class. Even liberal opposition uses racism/sexism/climate change to strike fear. For

Castells, political brain is an emotional brain. Neoliberal anti-rationalistic attitude (Hayek) is

spreading distrust in science and truth (climate, fake-news). Network society prefers populists

to leftists.