This article interogates Manuel Castell's Network society using the Egyptian Revolution and Occupy Wall Street as case studies. It looks at key shared characteristics: the call for transformational change, using a network structure and creating a self-conscious identity all of which nearly reflect the social theorist Manuel Castells’ definition of a social movement in a network society. Using the Egyptian revolution’s January 25th movement (the Jan 25 movement) and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as case studies, I argue that Castells’ theory of a network society successfully describes how social movements are empowered by the network structure to create social change. However, I also argue that Castells’ binary conception of power does not account for how the overarching power structures shape each movement. Instead, Foucault’s analytics of power clarifies how conditions of domination, in the case of Egypt, or subjugation, in the case of OWS, influences the identity created by the protest movement. The constructed identity, in turn, determines the role of the individual within a greater movement. By using Foucault and Castells in tandem, it is possible to better understand both the mechanics of these networked social movements as well as how they differ in mounting resistance to their respective political-economic system.

First Advisor

Emelie Peine

Second Advisor

Michael Veseth

Degree Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012