Niall ferguson books the square and tower
The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook by Niall FergusonBut what if the real action is in the social networks down below, in the town squares? Niall Ferguson, the international bestselling author of Empire, The Ascent of Money and Civilization , brilliantly recasts past and present as an unending contest between hierarchies and networks. Niall Ferguson is one of Britain's most renowned historians. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more. By signing up, I confirm that I'm over View all newsletter. Paperback
Niall Ferguson, "The Square and the Tower"
The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson review – a restless tour through power
Niall Ferguson is not the kind of historian who suffers from understatement. He writes big, muscular books with high-concept ideas that target current concerns through the prism of the past. They are pull-yourself-together warnings to the present by way of arresting historical precedent. In The Great Degeneration he describes the collapse of the institutions on which the west made its success. This often seems a distinction without a great — or great enough — difference. Most networks are hierarchical, after all, and there are few hierarchies that are not in some sense part of a wider network.
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Niall Ferguson interview: ‘Public life these days is a cascade of abuse’
It is indisputable that the internet — facilitated by both vast improvements in access and computing power — has had a disruptive impact on not just business but politics and many aspects of our daily lives. Demonstrating precisely what that impact is, however, has been remarkably challenging. Pronouncements on the topic have a tendency to be overblown. The impression that the world is changing faster today than ever before has become conventional wisdom. Yet the magnitude of change that occurred between when America galloped into World War I on horses and dropped the atomic bomb feels more significant than that undergone since the first dot-com domain name was registered. This observation is not meant to diminish the importance of the seismic changes wrought by the digital age, but rather to suggest the relevance of historical context often absent from the conversation. The internet itself is a network of networks.
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The tower represents hierarchical control and secular authority, the top-down approach to social structure. The study of how networks compete or co-operate with each other and with hierarchies is a hot topic in the social sciences, and it is easy to see why: think of the US military versus Isis; or Russian intelligence trying to exploit the US media; or Facebook and, well, almost anything. Networks flourished in the years to , he writes; hierarchies reasserted themselves until around , and networks have been making a comeback ever since. The book is a history told with the focus on the way networks and hierarchies shaped events. This approach is engaging but not always helpful.