chapter  10
26 Pages

Health and medicine in the information age: Castells, informational capitalism and the network society

BySIMON J. WILLIAMS

It is perhaps inevitable, in writing a chapter for this second edition, that I found myself reaching for the first edition and leafing back through my chapter on Goffman’s sociological theory of stigma and its applications to health and illness. In doing so, despite important developments in the intervening time period on the structural and political dimensions of stigma (Scambler 2009; Monaghan and Williams in press) I am inevitably struck by the contrast between the more microoriented sociological concerns pursued therein and the more macro-oriented sociological concerns I shall pursue in this chapter on the sociologist Manuel Castells. Someone smarter than me no doubt might explore the convergences and

micro-macro connections here through a new sociological theory of stigma in the information age and the network society perhaps. My focus, however, will be somewhat different, if not novel, given that my chosen application of Castells to the health domain pertains not to stigma but to sleep. Sleep is an odd choice you may think, particularly for sociology, but it is one that I hope to convince you, the reader, is a befitting example and novel illustration by the end of the chapter. So why then, of all sociological theorists dead or alive today, have I chosen

Castells? And why, for that matter, have I chosen sleep to apply his work to? The short answer to the latter question is not simply that sleep is a novel yet important and fast-growing sociological topic area, but that it’s an issue I have been researching for well over a decade now and so, on both theoretical and practical counts, it seemed like a good test case to try out and see. As for the former question, there are two short answers. First, my growing interest in another rich new area of research, namely sociological engagements with the neurosciences, led me to Castells’ work given his recent attempts to deepen or enrich his theory of ‘communication power’ in the network society through recourse to various strands of neuroscience, affective intelligence and political communication theory (of which more below). Second, it seemed inevitable, given my longstanding interests in the media-health nexus, and my growing sociological interests in networks and complexity theory, that sooner or later I would get to reading Castells: the sociological theorist par excellence of the information age and the network society.