Network Movements

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Bernardo Gutierrez:

"Adrià Rodríguez, researcher at the Global Revolution Research Network (GRRN) of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), uses the concept of a ‛network system’: “A network system is a complex network with multiple nodes which are organically linked in a form of constant change.” The phenomenon of ‛emergence’, popularised by Steven Johnson and characteristic of complex systems, helps to understand the social processes of network systems. Emergence is the process driving a system that is not reducible to the properties of its constituent parts.

Network systems, in the words of Brazilian researcher Rodrigo Nunes, are along those lines: “Network systems are not a mere aggregate of individuals; they are internally differentiated, with more dispersed areas and more dense, more organic and more organised nodes. The network system can host everything: traditional movements, parties, unions, small collectives, informal networks of friends, and individuals.” However, the theory of network systems might be insufficient. Couldn’t the US Tea Party, Al-Qaeda or the elites who use tax havens to plunder the planet be defined as network systems?

On the one hand, the concept of ‛techno-politics’ complements the concept of a ‛network system’. A techno-political network system, then, would be a set of citizen nodes that reappropriate technology to reshape political participation and mobilisation methods. On the other hand, speaking about ‛network movements’ represents a quantum leap. Adrià Rodríguez’s definition is one of the most inspiring: “Network movements go beyond the sociological category of social movements. They are articulated through the network, and they reach and involve a much greater number of nodes than traditional social movements.” Arnau Monty, another researcher at the GRRN, emphasises the importance of practice over ideology: “The forms of cooperation of network movements no longer rely on big unitary ideological dogmas, but on connecting practices.” And what is it that defines the ‛network movement’ mentioned by Arnau Monty? What makes it different from the ‛network system’? Permanence over time, among other things, would justify the conceptual leap." (


The Tides Movement in Spain

Bernado Gutierrez:

"When many thought the Spanish #15M was dead, its network system was vital to the virality of the struggle in Gamonal, a working class neighbourhood in the city of Burgos that was fighting a road construction project. The case of Spanish Citizen Tides (las mareas ciudadanas), one of the most relevant transformations in the 15M-Indignados process, is especially interesting. The organisation of the Tides – where unions and political parties have failed to impose their methods – represents a radical change in collective organisation. The Tide phenomenon could be defined as a networked post-trade unionism, or as a collective self-organisation oriented towards the commons. For example, the White Tide, which has just blocked the privatisation of public health in the Madrid region, erases the boundaries between doctor and patient. With its aggregating architecture of participation, it transforms health into a commons. The collective action converging in the Tides network movement unconsciously preserves its shape, maintaining the life of the common social body." (