Visions of Democracy in the Information Society: The Theories of Daniel Bell, Manuel Castells, and Yochai Benkler

Abstract
"In this dissertation, I unearth the common threads and subtle evolution of democratic ideals in mainstream theories of the information society that span over thirty years. I apply the lens of democratic theory, with a primary focus on liberal and republican traditions, to perform a close reading of seminal works such as Daniel Bell’s (1973) Post-Industrial Society, Manuel Castells’ (1996; 1997; 1998) Information Age trilogy, and Yochai Benkler’s (2006) Wealth of Networks. Through a comparative analysis, I expose the democratic canvas upon which these scholars paint their images of a rising social organization that is structured around flows of information and knowledge. Two democratic axioms stand at the center of an emergent model of information democracy. The first axiom prescribes the ideal democratic subject with the affective trait of social awareness; this model of democracy, I argue, presumes that its citizens are always ready and willing to understand, to share, and to empathize with others in their community. The second axiom refers to the idea that technologically facilitated communication can help deliver, grow, and sustain the individual citizens’ capacity for social awareness. Flows of information operate as the democratic citizens’ eyes and ears into the lives of others, facilitating mutual understanding. Thus, democracy in the information society realizes the common good through the affective orientation of each and every individual towards the social other, and through flows of information and knowledge that support such an orientation. The presence of these two axioms allows these scholars, in turn, to weld two ideals usually considered antithetical to each other – the liberal ideal of individual freedom and the republican ideal of the common good."
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Keywords
common good, democracy, information society
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