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Castells versus Bell: A comparison of two grand theorists of the information age

Duff, Alistair S.


Alistair S. Duff


Daniel Bell (1919–2011) and Manuel Castells (1942–) are the grand theorists of the information age. The article provides a detailed, up-to-date, comparative analysis of their writings. It begins with their methodologies, identifying numerous commonalities in their post-Marxian frameworks. The substance of their theories is then examined, where it is shown that both plausibly explain contemporary social reality in terms of the interplay of three forces: the information technology revolution, the restructuring of capitalism and the innovational role of culture. There are found to be major similarities in their accounts (the Kantian interpretation, social stratification) but also significant divergences (role of science, the fourth world, the normative content of culture). Suitably combined, Bell’s and Castells’s thought goes a long way towards delivering a persuasive sociological theory of the global information society. However, the article concludes by suggesting that extensive further work is needed to clarify the precise relationships between the three factors and their relative weightings in the equations required to explain recent social change.


Duff, A. S. (2023). Castells versus Bell: A comparison of two grand theorists of the information age. European Journal of Social Theory, 26(1), 90-108.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 22, 2022
Online Publication Date May 30, 2022
Publication Date 2023-02
Deposit Date Jun 1, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 17, 2023
Journal European Journal of Social Theory
Print ISSN 1368-4310
Electronic ISSN 1461-7137
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 90-108
Keywords Bell, Castells, culture, grand theory, informatization, networks
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