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The square and the tower : networks and power, from the Freemasons to Facebook

by Ferguson, Niall (Author)

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"A brilliant recasting of the turning points in world history, including the one we're living through, as a struggle between old power hierarchies and new social networks. Most history is hierarchical: it's about popes, presidents, prime ministers and other potentates. It's about states, armies and... Full description

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Summary: "A brilliant recasting of the turning points in world history, including the one we're living through, as a struggle between old power hierarchies and new social networks. Most history is hierarchical: it's about popes, presidents, prime ministers and other potentates. It's about states, armies and corporations. It's about orders from on high. But what if that's simply because hierarchical institutions create the archives that historians rely on? What if we are missing the less visible social networks that are the true drivers of change--leaving them to the conspiracy theorists, with their dreams of all-powerful Illuminati? The twenty-first century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in [this book], Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real. From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks. Far from being novel, Ferguson argues, our era is the Second Networked Age, with the personal computer in the role of the printing press. And he shows how network theory--concepts such as homophily, degrees of separation, weak ties, viral contagions and phase transitions--can transform our understanding of both the past and the present. Just as The Ascent of Money put Wall Street into historical perspective as the financial crisis struck ten years ago, so The Square and the Tower does for Silicon Valley as political storm clouds gather over the tech titans. Those who prophesize a global community of interconnected netizens are in for a shock, Ferguson warns. For the conflicts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries already have unnerving parallels today in the time of Facebook, the Islamic State and Trump."--Dust jacket.
Physical Description: xxvii, 563 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (pages 436-536) and index.
ISBN: 9780735222915
0735222916
Author Notes: Niall Ferguson was born April 18, 1964, in Glasgow. He is a Scottish historian. He specializes in financial and economic history as well as the history of empire. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

His books include Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation 1897-1927 (1993), Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (1997), The Pity of War: Explaining World War One (1998), The World's Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild (1998), The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000 (2001), Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (2003), Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (2004), The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006) and The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (2008), Civilization: The West and the Rest (2011) , The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, and The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook.

(Bowker Author Biography)

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