All 9 entries tagged Dd 201

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May 25, 2008

Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu

Cultural Capital 

Pierre Bourdieu is perhaps best known in this country for his work on the concept of cultural capital. Work on Bourdieu and class appears on pp 76-77 of book 2 Social Differences and Divisions.

Here is a definition of cultural capital by Mike Savage:

By being based around abstraction, cultural capital bestows upon its possessors the skills and attributes to perform well in the educational process and hence convert their dispositions into educational credentials that will allow them to move into privileged jobs. thus cultural capital allows people to sustain social advantage. It is a separate axis of stratification to economic capital. (Savage. 2002. 'Social Exclusion and Class Analysis'  p 77)

On page 78 Savage has extracted the work of Warde studying food consumption in the UK based upon a Bourdieu derived analysis of cultural capital. Warde shows that food consumption has a high degree of consistency over social class and is not just related to income. As Savage points out on p 79 small industrial and commercial employers have similar food tastes to those of thier employees. These differ quite radically from those of the professional classes. You might wish to mae a note of a couple of figures so that you can cite them as examples of the uses of quantitative research in identifying aspects of class. 

Savage points out that the concept of cultural capital is different from Weber's notions of status. Status refers to honour / dishonour. Cultural capital  involves the inculcation of certain skills and abilities even though they may not be aware of this. Status must be recognised otherwise the status function is lost. Cultural capital on the other hand is frequently at its most effective when it is misrecognised.

For Bourdieu because 'high culture' takes on the position of being universal culture rather than the culture of the ruling elites  it thus sustains the power and privileges of the ruling elite. in food consumption for example eating more fresh fruit and vegetables is deemed as being healthier and something that everybody should aspire to as a universal ideal. This approach ignores the class basis of food consumption. 

Habitus & Field  (See p 81)

Savage also touches upon two other important aspects of Bourdieu's work habitus and field.

Habitus can be described as the internalised, usually unconscious points of view which people hold. These dispositions have the effect of making people feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in different social circumstances. As a result they try and situate themselves within the fields in which they feel most comfortable. Bourdieu notes the idea of pre-reflexive fields and reflexive fields.   The latter is less dependent upon money and more upon the ability to function reflexively within powerful institutions which organise the economy and the state. Non-reflexive fields may allow a social actor to accumulate excellent skills such as playing professional football and can earn large amounts of money. But even thebest paid are limited in what they can achieve. They are usually not able to move into other fields and for those not at the top of a sport this can be a problem in later life if sufficient economic capital is not built up.

May 24, 2008

Ferdinand Toennies

Ferdinand Toennies

Bust of Ferdinand Toennies

I, VollwertBIT, the copyright holder of this work, has published or hereby publishes it under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5

Toennies is best known for his concepts of Gemeinschaft & Gesellschaft.

Gemeinschaft is associated with close-knit communities which are more feudal or semi-feudal in their social relationships. They are in other words pre-industrial.

Gesellschaft by comparison can be associated with the more distanced social relationships between people in a city despite their physical closeness to each other. 

The trailer below is from the Italian film Rocco and His Brothers by Luchino Visconti. Several of Visconti's films explored the tensions developing within Italy as it modernised after the Second World War. Peasant families from the mezzogiorno (deep south) migrated to the rapidly growing industrial cities of Milma and Turin. Visconti's film follows the trials and tribulations of just such a peasant family from the deep south. The film opens with the train arriving in Milan where they expect to meet the eldest brother who has gone on ahead. The family can no longer make a living from the land and they must find work and shelter. 

Simone takes up boxing a fairly typical thing  to do, and as he becomes more dissolute Rocco takes over being a boxer to pay off Simone's debts.   Another brother goes to night school and eventually becomes a skilled worker in the Alfa Romeo factory. His understanding is that hard work and social solidarity in the unions is the way to survive this new environment. The plot gets complicated as firstly Simone has a relationship with Nadia who is also an immigrant and makes a living through prostitution. As simone goes downhill Nadia leaves him. A couple of years later Rocco who had to do national srvice takes up with her: they are both very much in love, yet ultimately Rocco betrays her because he cannot throw over the patriarchal ifeology that the family must be protected at all costs. This is in spite of Simone raping Nadia in front of his brother who is being restrained by Simone's friends. Eventually Nadia is murdered by Simone and it is another brother who recognises that the rule of law is above family and calls the police. Gesellschaft has triumphed over Gemeinscaft which is shown up as being regpressive and regressive.

There are many features of the change to modernity which are effectively tackled in this film and representations of class and the growing industrial city are all involved. This film shows very well the effects of the growth of industrialism creating flows of labour into the city and the problems immigrants have in adapting. For a range of contemporary British films that have been representing some of thes concerns in today's Britain check out my page on this: Representing the World Locally also check out the page Globalisation and Cinema.

Toennies was more concerned with the loss of Gemeinschaft Visconti on the other hand is rather more critical of these older forms of organisation. 

When it comes to the books in DD 201 I would suggest that you revise the work on Family and Kinship in East London from Wilmot and Young. This shows how the stereotype of people being isolated in the city was never really the case.  There were extending families living in Bethnal Green and  according to Wilmot and Young's research and lots of community activities and support. When these families were moved into more modern accommadation their social networks became more extended. The change effected women the most as they didn't usually have a full-time job. 

For more on the work of Wilmot and Young go to Book 1 page 234 and also the reading on page 256 for Bethnal Green and 259 for Greenleigh.  

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

Source: Immigrants demonstrating, 1973 (Magnum). From the Michel site

In book one Understanding Everyday Life Foucault pops up early on pp xi-xii.

This introduces us to the idea of cultural technologies such as photography, cinema, TV, the Internet. Not only do these technologies provide an opportinity to extend cultural representation but thay can also be used as new forms of social discipline and provide new forms of surveillance. Foucault did a lot of work on modern disciplinary systems such as the prison, the school, the asylum, the hospital.

The book takes us into the makings of a new disciplinary society where visual communications has an aspect to it which has been described as 'ocular penetration' as people are more and more watched by anonymous powers. People are made visible in different ways through bureaucratic means such as statistics as well as visually based systems of surveillance such as security cameras. Here you might want to think about how the American censuses managed to construct and reconstruct "race" see page 161 book two Social Differences and Divisions. you can also find reference to Foucault's notion of biopower, on page 352 of book 3 Social Change. Here a reading from Donna Haraway describes what she understands by this term:

I understand Foucault's (1978) concept of biopower to refer to the practices of administration, therapeutics and surveillance of bodies that discursively constitute, increase and manage the forces of all living organisms. 

Haraway points to the invention of particular terms in the 19th century as examples such as:

  • The masturbating child
  • The Malthusian couple reproducing far too many children
  • The 'hysterical' woman
  • The homosexual 'pervert' 

For Foucault this tendency of descending individualisation marked a change from earlier societies where the Kings & Queens etc were very much on display whilst the plebs were largely invisible. Making ordinary people visible to invisible powers made them more governable.

On page 69 of book 1 Understanding Everyday Life you will find some discussion about foucault and his ideas on discourse. You will find more on both in your dictionary of sociology as well:

discourse refers to the social rules practices and forms of knowledge that govern what is sayable and doable in any given context (p 69)

Think about how this concept can be applied to ideas such as:

  • Race
  • Romance
  • Gender 

We can also think about Foucault when we come to book 4 The Uses of Sociology when we contemplate the role of sociology. The political perspective of sociology (p106) can be seen through the light of Foucault's expression 'power is always present'. The social knowledge generated by sociological thinking and research means that sociology is inevitably connected with social change usually in terms of emancipation and social change.  

For your exam try and think how the work of some key theorists can be related to the various threads across all the books rather than just thinking of the books as discreet entitities.  

Max Weber

Max Weber

Max Weber

Max Weber appears early on in DD 201. We are introduced to him on p 12 of Book 1 Understanding Everyday Life. Here Weber is used in relation to understandings of the home which by the late 19th century at least for the poorer classes was being increasingly invaded by the forces of the state, a situation that was to continue up until the present day. Instead of 'Home' being sen as a 'Haven' from the trials and tribulations of the everyday world various agencies were taking an increasingly important role. Reiger adapts Weber's idea of 'Disenchantment' and applied it to the home. 

Weber spent a lot of time monitoring the changes from a social world that was based upon religious and magical conceptions into a world that was increasingly controlled by 'rational' and 'scientific' forms of calculation along with a growth of managerial systems to assist in this aim.

Weber also pops up again in Book 2. Here Mike Savage considers Weber's theory of class in comparison to both Marx and Pierre Bourdieu.

Unlike Marx Weber: sees no necessary connection between economic inequality (class), honour and reputation (status) and power (command).  suggests Mike Savage.

Marx thought that economic inequalities would eventually lead to a recognition of the social bonds of class through the leadership of the Working class. Marx promoted the idea of strong class identity whilst Weber didn't.

Rosemary Crompton in reading 2.3 of Book 2 p 94 gives a breakdown of Weber's sociological approach.  She points out that Weber was a 'methodological individualist'. in other words he thought that human social phenomena can be broken down into their individual parts rather than seeing abstract structures that can be independently identified as key to shaping society.

Weber believed in market determined 'life chances'.  This leads Weber into an analysis of class which is superficially similar to Marx's:

  • The working class as a whole
  • The petty-bourgeoise
  • Technicians / specialists / Lower level management
  • 'classes privileged through property and education' 

Weber thought that classes could carry a range of possible forms of class action but against Marx he considered that this wasn't necessarily the case that this would happen. He recognised that a mass of people who might be an average of the working class might temporarily identify interests but to place this on the pedestal of historical necessity is 'pseudo-scientific'.  

Max Weber Platz Munich

Max Weber Platz Munich. Nice to see sociologists gaining recognition within public space sommewhere.

Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel

Gerog Simmel

This image and quote is from the Emory University site. Please note the significant differences in translation! 

In DD 201 Simmel  is used in book 3 on Social Change.  Simmel was an important sociologist writing on the changes wrought by modernity in relation to the city at  the start of the 20th century. Simmel's essay'The Metropolis and Mental Life' has become a sociological classic. simmel is particualrly helpful when considering social change and the ways in which social interactions  in  the rapidly growing cities were changing  people's social behaviours in quite radical ways. 

The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his [sic] existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life. (Cited Social Change p 19)

Who's Who? Quiz on Sociological Theorists in DD201

Who's Who? Quiz on Sociological Theorists in DD201


As part of you revision exercises you will find it useful to memorise some of the main theorists that you have started to become familiar with. See if you can remember which ideas the following theorists are associated with. If you can link these ideas into the issues which the course books are dealing with in relation to their ideas.

Try and write down from memory what you can remember about their core ideas then click on the links to refresh your connections.  

Social Theorists

Karl Marx : Not yet open  

Max Weber  

Ferdinand Toennies  

Pierre Bourdieu

Michel Foucault

Henri Lefebvre : Not Yet open

Manuel Castells : Not yet open

Émile Durkheim :  Not yet open

T. H. Marshall : Not yet open

Anthony Giddens :  Not yet open

Georg Simmel

Jürgen Habermas : Not yet open 

April 15, 2008

DD201 Research Methods

DD201 Research Methods: For Day School & TMA

by Ieman & Mike


Research 'Methods' as a title can sound very dry and uninspiring, but research is one of those areas which can actually prove to be rather exciting and animated. Responses to research findings may not be well thought out (as responses to a link below show), as well as challenging.

Before we go on to think in more depth about research methods let's pause for a moment to think how "Research" in society can effect you. Frequently on the news or in a magazine we see, hear or read about the "latest research" which tells us something. Usually the stories are prefaced "The latest research..." or "Researchers from .... have found that...". It could be that people who eat only bananas lose weight fastest. As news itself is constructed to find a target audience it could be news in a fashion magazine or at the end of a broadcast to provide light relief after more miserable tales about car bombs in Iraq or elsewhere.

Research findings announced like this can influence us at the micro-level perhaps persuading us to buy or ignore bananas or some other product. Usually some other piece of research will be announced in a similar fashion on the news, frequently seeming to contradict the first finding. Confused? Well you will be better off thinking about research methods. You might want to find out if the 'Bananas Research' was sponsored by the 'Banana Marketing Board' (My invention I think). If it was you might be inclined to be sceptical of the findings. Most of us prefer independent research findings from authoritative bodies who in this case know their bananas and are unlikely to slip up :-).

Things to do for discussion and the dayschool

Here is an example of a recent report.

  • How authoritative do you think it is?
  • How typical is it of the way we receive information?
  • How might it have been presented more authoritatively?  
  • What are your responses to the comments box the Herald has established ? (please create some responses in the comments box below this posting. Comments will be moderated so academic English please) 
  • Did you spot somebody like this cartoon character in the Herald comments? 

Gender Cartoon 2

Here is a link to the actual report perhaps they should have used web power to underpin their newspaper report. It might have given it more authority. Scottish Gender Equality Scheme March 2008

Research findings can also have massive effects at the level of policy and practice in large organisations and institutions such as local or national governments or health authorities. It can also influence international institutions such as the World Health Organisation for example.

Research is therefore incredibly important and correspondingly how that research is conducted is extremely important. There is then the issue of how the results of the research are interpreted.

Different disciplines and subject areas use different research methods not all research methods are useful to research all things in the world. Sociology as a social science generates particular kinds of knowledge about society and social structures.

Methodology & Methods 

No form of social research can be value free or 'unbiased' although that research may be unwittingly biased. For many years male sociologists didn't think to explore issues such as equal pay at work for example. This was largely because they were from a gendered culture that didn't think that women at work were that important an issue to be investigating. This was because many though that women just worked for 'pin money', therefore it was of no great social significance. It took feminist inspired researchers to find out about the issues of low pay and unequal conditions for women. Even now there isn't full equality in terms of overall life opportunities but thanks to this sociological research equal pay acts have been in place for many years as has a sex discrimination act. This means that most women at work are much better off than working women before the middle of the 1970s.

In order to generate the sociological knowledge that lead to these changes in the law required specifically feminist oriented research. This research defamiliarised society and seeking to examine all the ways in which gender assumptions impacted on society used a different METHODOLOGY. The term methodology refers to:

...the underlying assumptions and analytical structures that inform the choice and use of methods, together with the process of critical reflection on these. (Uses of Sociology xi)

The methodology which one uses is guided by ideology. Nobody is outside of ideology and ideology isn't just something ojne picks up out of a book it is deeper and more pervasive and can often translate into the way in which we see the "normal" everyday world. If women are "naturally" meant to be at home looking after children then a sociologist of work (probably a male sociologist in the 1940s-1960s) may well have not thought that there was any other way of doing the research. This constituted a failure in thinking about how society was constructed in all its social relationships.

How research is conducted is also very important and can significantly influence the basis of sociological knowledge. The 'How' of research is all abouts sociological methods.

Sociology has traditionally been thought of as being divided into two main areas for methods with many different methods being used under each category. Firstly there is the realm of qualitative methods and secondly there is the realm of quantitative methods. For a long time quantitative methods were considered as more "scientific" because the figures and statistics generated were closely linked to the physical sciences like chemistry or physics. This gave the the figures more credibility as being "rational" and unbiased. However, as has already been shown, if a particular method is used coming from a particular ideological base the researcher is not going to extend their knowledge of society outside of a pre-defined circuit of knowledge.

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative methods have become far more popular in social research nowadays and some of the methods are shared with many other subject areas for example anthropology, cultural studies, media studies,social and cultural history and social psychology. Qualitative methods also develop, and new ways of researching people are being constantly thought through and refined.

Qualitative methods imply quality which can mean care and attention to detail if you are buying a piece of 'quality' clothing or other 'quality' product. Quality implies a depth and quality implies good value. In terms of research it should mean that the research is conducted ethically, and that the person or people researched are properly represented (this can be a problem with participant observation research). It should mean that a person or persons are having their viewpoints and experiences accurately recorded.

Of course qualitative research can be carried out badly and quantitative research can be carried out well; this is why it is important to carry out everything methodically and carefully paying attention to the nuts and bolts of research. For example Peter Redman conducted research with Sixth Form college students and their relationship to romance he made a point of dressing differently from the adult educationalists in the college. He did this to try and ensure that he would not be identified with college and therefore as some sort of authority figure.

Quantitative Methods

Quantitative research, as it's name implies, relates to quantity in other words number crunching and statistics. That research is quantitative doesn't imply that it is bad quality - often it is very good.  Quantitative research is very good at showing up tendencies over large numbers of people as a whole. Very often the larger the number of people involved the better an idea of society in relation to those specific questions is. The key thing about quantitative research is whether the right questions are being asked. In the example about women and equal pay given above sociologists of work and industry were not asking the right questions therefore they were generating no data about pay and conditions in ways that related to gender. How does quantitative research help the trade unions in this story about equal pay for example?

Is Qualitative better then Quantitative?

This isn't a very good question it's like comparing chalk and cheese. Different methods generate different types of information. Once that information is gleaned then it may well be possible to generate more and better knowledge by using another method. Governments want to have information about large numbers of their populations so that they can quickly adjust policies. This means that they are going to be most influenced by large scale studies becuase they are interested in voters. It is undoubtedly useful in a national census to get accurate data across the whole of the population about things like how many people use outdoor toilets. That would show a government what it needed to do in terms of housing policy. If a government wants to put a green bulding agenda in place it might want to know how many people have invested in solar panels and how many had high quality loft insulation. They might then wish to make improvements grants available in certain regions. But these kind of questions wouldn't show what people's experience of having solar panels was.

If the question in the national census was based on some qualitative research then it would be a good question. If a survey of those who had invested in solar panels said that it was a good experience and that the house was warm and well lit and that fuel bills had been significantly reduced and that solar panels were paying for themselves then the government could usefully identify the whereabouts and numbers of houses with this facility. It might cross reference this to incomes and owner-occupancy. It could then come up with a policy such as giving housing associations extra money to install solar panels in newbuild houses. This might stimulate the private market to do the same. 

Triangulating research

It can be seen that cross referencing research findings from different methods could be very useful and could lead to social changes. Let us look at what happened with the issues of equal pay and gender in a rather schematic way. 

With the rise of feminism in the late 1960s many feminists at university discovered that women were not necessarily receiving equal pay for equal work. They may have discovered this doing holiday jobs for example. Once they progressed to become researchers they were able to use qualitative research to see if the anecdotes and life experiences of these gendered conditions was more widespread and how it was constructed. They could then publish these research outcomes perhaps in trade union or left wing newspapers. Women who were trade union representatives could take these findings to their unions. Once there was quite a lot of small scale qualitative evidence amassed then there was a good reason for a Trade Union research department to carry out research into the conditions for its workers. This was done by a number of unions and it was soon discovered that unequal pay for doing the same work was a common practice across the country. At this point it could then become  an issue for government to start to put into place equal pay legislation.

In this case the research methods were tiered and combined and the social reality was gradually made abundantly clear so that government had little option but to act. The important thing to note here is that the research methods complemented one another. In order to achieve change both were needed. In the previous book four which has now been replaced by the smaller book you now have, Anne Oakley, a feminist researcher who started out in the 1970s when equal pay legislation was introduced was very careful to make this point. Oakley was concerned that many feminist researchers had decided that quantitative methods of research were necessarily 'positivist' and as such part of a patriarchal system. Qualitative research on the other hand could be seen to be inherently feminist as it sought to understand women's experiences of the real world that they lived in and would provide them with a 'voice'.

Oakley used the equal pay legislation argument to illustrate her concerns with this more idealist form of feminism:

Feminism's interest in an emancipatory social science suggests a need for a range of methods within which 'quantitative' methods would have an accepted and respected place.... the underlying gendering of structural inequalities that occurs in most societies could not be discerned using qualitative methods on their own. (Oakley: The Uses of Sociology First Edition p 296)

The Need to be Critical and Analytical about Research Findings

If, as has been suggested, it is the case that research cannot be value free what does this mean? Well it doesn't necessarily matter if research has values. Research after all must have some aims and objectives however research into a phenomenon such as poverty could come up with radically different results depending upon the outlook of the researcher. What this means is that as active citizens we must all become more crtiical and competent at being able to critique research projects. We need to be able to ask a whole range of questions when we are presented with research. Below is a list of questions which you need to ask when you are being presented with the results of a research project.

Research Methods – some possible questions to ask

· What are the Weaknesses and Strengths?

· What are the key claims? – Do they relate to counting data or locating meanings?

· How does the chosen research method support our understanding of the claims?

· What are the underlying epistemological claims around what counts as knowledge?

· Are different or opposing research methods being used? – If so what might be the impact of this?

· Who is the researcher?

· Who is being researched?

· Might there be any areas of bias?

· For example might there be any gender, class, ethnicity assumptions?

· Are there any gaps in what is being researched in relation to the claims?

· Are the research findings representative of the general population or the specific population under enquiry?

· Are the particular events/information being researched likely to produce relevant findings in relation to the claims?

· Are there other events/areas of research that might produce relevant findings?

· Are there any ethical concerns that the researcher(s) takes into account?

· Are there any ethical concerns that the researcher(s) should have taken into account?

Remember the checklists in The Uses of Sociology which outline the strengths and weaknesses for

  • Qualitative (p67) 

  • Quantitative methods (pp96-7) .


As this link shows research can have some important financial outcomes and go a long way towards changing societal attitudes. The link again to the Scottish Government website on their programme against violence against women shows how far the outcomes of feminist research have come since the very early 1970s when Erin Pizzey first set up Women's Aid. Before then the issue of domestic violence wasn't formally recognised. Police would stay away from a 'domestic' ith has taken a lot of qualitative  and quanitative research to get to the point of government awarding organisations money to combat unacceptable social behaviour. The responses in the comments box show why the money is necessary.

March 29, 2008

Cities and Social Change DD201 Dayschool 2008

Cities and Social Change DD201 Dayschool 2008

Cities, The Networked Society and resisting the Space of Flows


Let’s think about Cities historically in terms of their position in the world and in terms of how they functioned.

Historically we can think of Athens / Rome / Carthage / Florence / London / Paris / Vienna / Berlin / New York / San Francisco / Los Angeles / Tokyo

Now over half the people in the World live in Cities and they seem to be changing faster than ever before.  

The emergence of “New Super-Cities” : Mexico City,  Sao Paolo with many more emergent in China and South East Asia. By 2050 we are looking at cities with populations of over 50 million people. 

Tate Modern logo

This Tate Modern hyperlink above will take you to the Tate Modern exhibition of 2007 on global cities. When you arrive there check out the flash video which is also possible to download.

Favela in Brazil

Paraisópolis Favela in Sāo Paulo, Brazil 2005

I remember this image above especially well from when I visited the exhibition. The juxtaposition of wealth and power in immediate proximity to poverty stricken areas is particularly noticeable. It was in Brazil that the first gated cities were designed to protect the superwealthy inhabitants. Now a common mode of transport in and out of them is by helicopter. So there are many helicopter pads in these areas. Bullet proof cars are quite normal.

Above you can make out tennis courts and a swimming pool with exoctically designed luxury flats only a few metres away (and a very high wall - maybe hi-tech wall!)

Cities then, are centres of wealth and power as well as poverty and social exclusion. Have things changed radically since Engels' time we are led to ask ourselves? Here he describes Manchester in the 1840s: 

The town itself is peculiarly built , so that a person may live in it for years, and go in and out daily without coming into contact with a working people's quarter or even with workers, that is so long as he confines himself to his business or to pleasure walks. (Engels 1987 / 1845, pp85 cited Social change ed Jordan p 40) 

The Increasing Size of Global Cities

The following quotations are taken from the Tate Modern Exhibition on the global city 2007 from the "Size" section.

The Greater Tokyo area in the Kanto region now accommodates over 34 million people in a consistently dense and multi-centred urban region that is well served by an integrated system of trains, underground and buses, used by nearly 80% of daily commuters.

Sprawling across a high plateau framed by mountains and volcanoes, Mexico City has expanded tenfold in both population and area since 1940. With a population of 18 million plus, the city region generates nearly a quarter of Mexico's wealth, attracting people – many of them young – from the rest of the country to the Aztecs' original 'floating city'.

Sao Paulo is Brazil’s largest and richest city, with a metropolitan region the size of Los Angeles or Shanghai. Its population has nearly doubled in the past 45 years, and growth in the last decade was 9.2%. As the country’s financial capital, with a constituency the size of some European countries, Sao Paulo plays a key role in national politics.

Size Isn't Everything 

Despite the fact that cities in the developing world are far outstripping the size of global cities such as London and New York these cities along with Tokyo remain the global hubs that dominate the present day world as Manuel Castells has argued. With the increasing pace of globalisation and the deregulation of markets which accompamied this process Castells sees cities as being arranged into a global hierarchy which reflects the underlying shift of contempory capitalism to be organised as a networked / informational society.

New York, London, Tokyo are the world's most important financial centres. Here it is important to note that Hong Kong's stock exchange is becoming increasingly important as China's economy continues to expand at a phenomenal rate.  Here intensification of the processes of capitalism take place.  The space of flows described by Castells trades vast amounts of money every single day far in excess of the value of the physical goods travelling around the world on the same day. 

What is the Space of Flows?  

The space of flows is an essential component of the Networked Society which Castells argues characterises the current phase of capitalist development. In different phaeses of capitalist development time and space have been radically reconstructed in order to allow change to take place:  

The network society is a social order embodying a logic which Castells characterizes as the `space of flows' in contrast to the historically created institutions and organizations of the space of places which characterized industrial society in both its capitalist and statist variants. (Simon Bromley Review of Castells Radical Philosophy)

The historical and social development of the network society, according to Castells, is rooted in a new, global socio-economic structure of informational capitalism. To characterize this socio-economic structure, Castells argues, we must focus on both its (capitalist) mode of production and what he terms its (informational) mode of development or technological system. (ibid)

Castells takes for granted that much of the logic of contemporary global society is capitalist: capitalist restructuring in response to the worldwide economic crisis of the 1970s played a central role in shaping the development of societies, both nationally and globally, including the formation of the informational mode of development itself; the purpose of this capitalist restructuring at the most general level has been to escape from those social, cultural and political controls placed upon the economy in the era of essentially nationally based industrial capitalism (ibid)

Time and space in the space of flows as conceived of by Castells is a space of organisational elites who are operating the global network which has come about as a result of globalisation.  This  operates within a  space of Timeless Time.

What is Timeless Time?

Castells notes that many sociologists and social geographers have discussed the ways in which clock time gradually took over space and society. Wher Giddens talked about Time - Space distanciation (the ability to communicate over greater distance faster) as modernity developed so David Harvey discusses the notion of Time-Space compression. In this formulation time becomes a part of the intensification of the processes of capitalism so that more profit can be extracted. Castells' notion of timeless time delineates the time of the networked society which allows both of the above processes to take place simulataneously. Thus the notion of real-time (now-time) can happen globally. This happens in the space of flows and can't necessarily be understood or clearly recognised within the space of places:

What I call timeless time is only the emerging, dominant form of social time in the networked society, as the space of flows doesn't negate the existence of places. It is precisely my argument that social domination is exercised throughtthe selective inclusion and exclusion of functions and people in different temporal and spatial frames. (Castells Rise of the Networked Society p 434).

Cities as Technopole in the Networked Society

Franke and Ham point out the importance of the technopole as a part of the process of creating a networked society:

High-technology-led industrial milieux of innovation, which are called ‘technopoles’ come in a variety of urban formats. In most countries, the leading technopoles are contained in the leading metropolitan areas. (Franke and Ham see link below)

Currently despite the massively growing power of China's economy  it still isn't a key player in the 'space of flows', precisely because it is the beneficiary of technology transfer rather than being innovative.

Castells notes that the Space of Flows isn't simply cyberspace although this is an important component of the whole concept. Rather the space of flows comprises of networks of interaction however specific areas such as banking or arts and culture will organise their own specific space of flows.

Castells argues that a space of flows operates on a logic of nodes and hubs. For Castells a node is somwhere like Wall Street which structures connections and activities in a key area.  Hubs are communication sites such as airports. What characterises them differnetly is that they are dependent upon the whole network for thier position. 

The space of flows is also about the space for the social actors. These can be residential spaces near the nodes or 'global corridors of social segregation separating these corridors from the surrounding places around the globe'.  VIP suite, virtual offices and international hotels are the examples Castells uses to describe these in the Global Resistance Reader.

The fourth componet of the space of flows is the realm of electronic spaces of communication such as websites whether interactive or not.

Dominant activities are organised around the logic of the space of flows which can be understood as something different to the space of places. Place is increasingly fragmented and localised in relation to the space of flows. 

Spaces of Resistance / Grassroots

People are increasingly a part of the space of flows and from this springs resistance. Networks of solidarity are organised through the internet. News of opression comes through the internet. 

Increasingly people are organising knowledge construction and  dissemination through the internet. Wikipedia is of course a fantastic example of global cooperation with regard to this. When Castells was writing about grassroots resistance in 1999 Web 2.0 hadn't been invented. Web 2.0 is the world of Wikis and blogs, information sharing and social network sites. These may well be forming the basis of what many at the start of the era of the World Wide Web were hoping would become an electronic public space.


Franke and Ham: Castells and the Space of Flows

Here the concept of social theory through the work of Castells is strongly critiqued:

Peter Abell and Diane Reyniers: On the Failure of Social Theory 

December 31, 2007

Representing Changing Britain: Ethnicity & Hybridity

Representing Changing Britain: Ethnicity and Hybridity

Return to Contemporary British Cinema Hub


If you have arrived here from the Chronology of European Cinema Page it is because the film you are interested in can be understood as part of a theme you will find the film you were after hyperlinked below. Hopefully you will be interested in following up the thematic approach as well.

Some of this page is still under development however there are a range of useful links available.

(See also Kinoeye Reference on Globalisation


This is the second of the themes being covered in Contemporary British Cinema. One of the most important things that a form of mass media should be doing is ensuring that it represents aspects of social change in society for no society stays fast-frozen in time for long. Britain has had a proud history of being a safe haven for many persecuted individuals and groups and they have often played an important role in the developments of British history itself not only making Britian what it is today but shaping it for things to come. In many ways British cinema as a whole institution doesn't do a very good job in representing social change and different aspects of the multiple layers of society which form Britain today.  

It must be emphasised here that in writing of British cinema I'm considering the whole institution of the cinema which is largely in thrall to rampant commercialism in the twin forms of the multiplex and Hollywood dominance of film making and it concommittent marketing power. It is ironical that it is British TV which has been central to the maintenance of good quality and challenging films in Britain since the early 1980s up until the present day.   

The main purpose of this page is to introduce some of the concepts of ethnicity and hybridity and the importance of these representations for the development of the concept of cultural citizenship.  By talking of citizenship this implies that citizens should have a right of representation within the media, however as with most rights they have to be hard fought for as it is not perceived as being in the immediate interests of those in the dominant positions to give those positions up without a fight.  There will then be a list of hyperlinked films which are ones which have dealt with this aspect of social change in Britain. Lastly there will be a general webliography however the individual film entries will hold the film specific links. 

The Concept of Ethnicity

Sorry under construction

The Concept of Hybridity

Sorry under construction

List of Relevant Films

Links will redirect to film specific pages once these are ready.  

My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985. Dir: Stephen Frears

Bahji on the Beach, 1993. Gurinder Chadha

Wild West, 1992. Dir: David Attwood

My Son the Fanatic, 1997. Dir. Udayan Prasad

East is East, 1999. Dir:Damien O' Donnell

Bend it Like Beckham, 2002. Dir Gurinder Chadha

Anita & Me, 2002. Dir: Metin Hüseyin

Ae Fond Kiss, 2003. Dir Ken Loach

Yasmin, 2004. Dir: Kenny Gleenan

Brick Lane, 2007. Dir: Sarah Gavron


Institute of Ideas. (They run the Culture Wars review site)

Director Munira Mirza on diversity 

Meet the Immigrants.  A joint BBC & Open University Broadcasting initiative helping to create a better understanding of global issues.

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