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Manuel Castells’ book provides a thorough analysis of a few recent social movements against the backdrop of his theory on power presented in his earlier work Communication Power. This grounding framework, which expands onto politics, media, affect and communication is outlined in the opening as well as reinforced throughout the book. Such project of Castells’ book as well as its shortcomings is neatly summarized in previous blog posts.

What intrigued me was the role narrativization played in his observations and conclusions. I’d like to return to questions of discourse and link it to the discussion of consensus and narrative we’ve had before. Storytelling is invoked both as an internal and external practice in the movements Castells describes. On the one hand storytelling is attributed to media describing movements, on how they enter national and global histories and politics, how they serve as models and references.

While such narrativization can be an important step in the process of integrating movements into politics, as the final chapters show, and often in a problematic way, I am interested in the disruption of narrativization both on a large national scale and the individual scale.

In explaining Indignadas movement, Castells points out the inability of traditional media to grasp a leaderless movement, in which individual narrative creation and distribution flourished. The poetically inclined “movement of multiple, rich discourses” is celebrated (128). Here it is national, or transnational media that fails to assemble a narrative.

In describing the Occupy movement Castells cites research (Graham-Felson, 2011) that talks about story-telling capacities of Tumblr as a “go-to platform of the movement” (176) and the constant practice of storytelling though posting videos and images (180), he makes a claim that when it came to Occupy the narrative was sometimes even more muddled in terms of individual demands and specifications. He cites the complexities, yet the persistence of the practice of consensus building in the GAs throughout the movement. In studying the Occupy movement, Castells makes a point that the process of building consensus is more important than reaching the consensus. “Power is exercised by a combination of coercion and intimidation with persuasion and consensus building” – he writes earlier when describing Egyptian Revolution (79). It makes me wonder how exactly consensus building is aligned with power and whether it aligns with what Lyotard describes as metanarrative.

I guess at the end of it all, I was trying to apply the observations of this book towards the recent events in Ukraine that Sebastian, Marlena and I tried to grasp in the midterm presentation. Maidan Revolution that Castells describes very sparingly and describes as “nationalist uprising” at times follows the same patterns as the other social movements described in the book. But what happens in the process of the integration of the protests into politics encompasses both a tendency towards narrativization and a complete rejection of it. With all the muddled, and un-unified agenda that the candidate of Darth Vader presents on social and traditional media there is hardly a tendency towards a consensus. However it is hard to deny the status of a charismatic leader to this candidate epitomizing all at once fictional narratives of nationalism, Internet, and Hollywood franchise. Describing the future of networked social movements in the last chapters, Castells draws on a distinct cast of characters that partially take on some of the thinking that the movements produce (within the limitations of pragmatic politics). He describes the merging of movements and politics under the movement-party phenomenon. With the unfolding of the Star Wars campaign in the Ukrainian politics, what is at stake then is a the future of a Ukrainian networked movement, whether what is happening now is a distinct movement, a form of movement-party in Ukrainian politics, or whether it is a full-blown reincarnation of traditional political narrative.

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