Sustainability in Network Society

Term Paper, 2004

15 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents



1 Introduction

2 Evolution of Sustainability

3 Network Society; a brief overview

4 Fostering Sustainable Development
4.1 Internet Deployment and Usage
4.2 Non Governmental Organisations
4.3 Formation of a New Environmental Consciousness

5 Hindering Sustainable Development
5.1 Lack of Control
5.2 Unimpeded exhausted cultivation

6 eEnterprise

7 Conclusions



Figure 1: Maslows Pyramid of Needs


illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

In a process of creative destruction -as Schumpeter called it- new Enterprises rise and are destroyed permanently on and around the economic battlefield Internet. The economic impact of web based applications and services offered by enterprises all over the world changes not only our business environment, but our society at the grass-root level. In the 1990s supported by enduring growth and prosperity many marketers supposed changing rules for these new ways of doing business. Employees influence is eroding due to the fact that companies all over the world are measured by shareholder value. Today, after the turnaround and probably overleaped the low point of recession we can assume that the important drivers of measuring business success has not been changed. Revenue and profit is still the goal and judgement criteria of success. But what about environment? Why should the success of any business in the future be measured in growth and not for instance in terms of environmental compatibility. In a world of growing world population, emerging economies and millions of people ambitious to gain western living standards we can not longer afford ongoing economic growth but satisfying living conditions for all mankind. So why business success should not be measured in the attainment of specific environmental goals to sustain the basis of our own existence.

In this context the social and human value and norms have to and are changing. So the changing rules are not done by business or due to the emerging internet technologies but to a change in society which is fostered by technological revolution. In this matter we will have a closer look at the concept of sustainability. How could this concept be adopted by the evolving Network Society? What are the threats and the chances for our life, nature and future? In this paper I will try to describe, analyse and conclude the major driving forces concerning sustainability in Network Society. I will start with descriptions of the status quo in research about sustainability and societal change, before analysing the most important actors and concluding what impact those simultaneous processes have on environmental concerns.

The Conclusions should offer the reader a specific tendency, into which direction the Network Society will lead us concerning environmental tasks, problems and solutions.

2 Evolution of Sustainability

“Who wants the world persist like today, does not want her to persist”

Erich Fried, Austrian writer and lyricist 1921-1988

Since we realised that the earth is not a source of infinite resources, people are fighting for conservation and environmental protection. After realising that the depletion of natural resources like water, air, land, climate and surface is even threaten our own life's, people are acting on behalf of the earth. Not altruistic but with the aim to provide a balanced way of living within our natural environment. This issue should reactivate all of us. Facing an economy which is based on economic growth and progressive expansion over the world we will not be able to survive in the long run. As adumbrated in the introduction the onward evolution of Chinas economy, certain parts of South East Asia, the Middle East and South Africa will change the environmental impact substantially. With far more than 1 Billion people arriving at a state in development where they want to have cars, hairdryers, TVs and private Houses we are facing problems in environmental matters[1]. “If we include the in the same model of growth the half of the population which is currently excluded, the model […] that we have created is not ecologically sustainable” (Castells 2001, p. 279)

17 years ago in 1987 the former Norwegian[2] Prime Minister Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland gained international attention and reputation while publishing -together with the World Commission on Environment and Development- a paper about sustainability. What is now called the Brundtland Commission Report called for a weighted balance of growth and environmental protection. This Concept is known as Sustainable Development:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Goal is to sustain biodiversity, facilitate sparing exposure and consumption of nature and landscape as well as an increasing efficiency in using resources. Setup at the Earth Summit[3] in 1992 the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) supports, encourages and monitors action by governments, the UN, business and industry as well as NGOs.

In this matter sustainability enfolded more topics than environmental concerns. On the agenda of the sustainability are also topics like tourism, poverty, science, technology, trade, transport and education (full list).

3 Network Society; a brief overview

It is a human attitude to label everything including things, people, time periods and social constructs. In 2001 Manuel Castells shaped the expression Network Society. In his basic work The Internet Galaxy he claims that “individuals are […] reconstructing the pattern of social interaction, with the help of new technological affordances, to create a new form of society: the Network Society.” [4] In the upcoming decades we will not be able to divide the world in connected, not-connected or disconnected. There will be no choice or as Castells says it „If you do not care about the network, the network will care about you, anyway”. Due to the fact of emerging connection speed and powerful web based societies (e.g. communities) people will build up communities of choice according to their affinities, psychographic criteria, choices of strategies of social actors and their social groups. These opportunistic, me centred networks are able to overcompensate the generally low level of commitment of the medium Internet. On the other hand they offer a portfolio of sociability which is able to overcome the decreasing importance of family and strong interpersonal relationships. These communities displace classic family tasks as support, information, a sense of belonging and social identity. As the Internet and its applications in general are good to maintain strong ties at a distance the crisis and problems[5] of our accelerating society and geographical globalisation[6]could be balanced. As recent studies pinpoint online-communities are enormously important, over 84% of the US-American Internet users have contact to an online group to organise their Offline-Life. The actor in this environment is network-individualist.

Mathew Wall-Smith paints in his paper about the Network Society a slightly different picture: “The Internet transforms the computer's primary role from that of computation to communication. That computational power, in turn, has the potential to transform human communication and therefore […] human consciousness.” As he called it we will become "neurons of a planetary hyper cortex", where “we rely on our community to provide access to people who have specific and detailed knowledge of a particular subject.” He agrees with Castells that the Internet will become an all surrounding octopus which will integrate, coordinate and support our life. Task is to make the Internet “as it stands an indispensable sight of innovation to the point at which it becomes an important component of the public infrastructure”.


[1] e.g. ozone depletion, global warming, forest degradation, acid rain, consumption of non-renewable resources, increasing greenhouse gases, desertification


[3] On the conference hold by 172 governments from the 3.-14. June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, the participating states signed the Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration and the Forest Principles

[4] Castells (2001), p.133

[5] rise of individualism, modern nomadism, opportunistic behaviour, lack of responsibility, lack of social control, boost of the Gini-Coefficient, self-centred/egoistic Lifestyle, redefined family definition

[6] from my perspective so called Globalisation is more a Regionalisation to certain industrializes Clusters (NAFTA, EU, Japan and the Tigers; measured in terms of FDI Transactions). Underdeveloped countries are consciously exempted from the agenda to sustain prosperity of the First World

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Sustainability in Network Society
BI Norwegian Business School  (Institutt for ledelse og organisasjon)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
423 KB
Sustainability, Network, Society, E-Enterprise
Quote paper
Florian Michaelsen (Author), 2004, Sustainability in Network Society, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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