Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Castells, Power and Social Work

Smith, R.

Castells, Power and Social Work Thumbnail



This article reflects on the important sociological contribution made by Manuel Castells. The potential implications for social work theory and practice are considered, especially in relation to his theories of networks and power. The article acknowledges Castells's thesis that we are witnessing a ‘transformational’ phase in social development, as ‘networks’ become fundamentally significant as a vehicle for ordering and shaping human lives. The interactions within and between social networks are considered, especially in relation to the domains of social work practice, and their inevitable concerns with processes of inclusion/exclusion and oppression. In light of these reflections, Castells's typology of network/power is introduced, and the relationship between structural and relational aspects of the typology is considered. The capacity of power-infused networks to construct and organise people's experiences is acknowledged, as are the implications for those who use social work services, and are often the objects rather than the subjects of power relations. Set against this are arguments for the potential to develop forms of ‘resistance’, for instance through ‘network-making’; this is exemplified by reference to social work practice. The article concludes with positive messages for the social work project, to the extent that practitioners are able to adopt a capacity-building role.


Smith, R. (2013). Castells, Power and Social Work. The British Journal of Social Work, 43(8), 1545-1561.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2013
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2012
Publicly Available Date Jul 20, 2012
Journal British Journal of Social Work
Print ISSN 0045-3102
Electronic ISSN 1468-263X
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 8
Pages 1545-1561
Keywords Castells, Power, Networks, Resistance, Network-making.


Accepted Journal Article (393 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a pre-copy-editing author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in British journal of social work following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Smith, R. (2013) 'Castells, power and social work.', British journal of social work, 43 (8). pp. 1545-1561 is available online at:

You might also like

Downloadable Citations