The Catholic Church: an ignored globalised network

Posted: 02/09/2010 in ARIN6901 Network Society, Uncategorized

Upon reflecting about the concept of globalization as one of the driving forces that Darin Barney (2004) identifies as one of the main social, political and financial drives that led to the network society, I realized that recent historical revisions of this network society rarely touch on an institution that, in my opinion, is one of the first and foremost forms of networked organizations: the Catholic Church.

Even a short and critical recount of this instutution’s history, like the one rendered by Hans Kung in The Catholic Church, reveals the vast network of political influence and information sharing that this truly globalised institution created, commanded and managed. For instance, the only constant link between the Americas and Europe, even at the times of the independentist movements in the 19th century, was the sharing of ideological, material and jurisdictional assets among the Vatican, regional representations and local churches. Whereas in the political and philosophical arenas the new and the old regimes severed most ties, communication flows between Church authorities remained constant and efficient. The in vogue adage, “Think global, act local” has been applied, for better or for worse, for centuries by the Catholic Church. Even today, when people marvel at the global scale of some corporation’s worldwide coordination efforts, the Catholic Church (from the Middle Ages onward) can be seen as an exemplar of a mechanism that permits a flow of money, ideology and human resources (not without acts of physically and psychologically violent cohersion, of course).

It is not my intention to exalt this institution, but only to set it as an example of a centuries-old intitution that functions as a network and to stress the fact that networks have existed for many, many years and globalization and thr network society are not concepts that belong only in sci-fi, technology-driven settings. As to why most network society theorists seem to ignore the complexity, both material and ideological, of this global web composed of millions of material (churches, cathedrals), human (believers and priests) and ideological nodes and goods, it is beyond my understanding.


Barney, Darin (2004) The Network Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kung, Hans (2001) The Catholic Church: a Short History. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

For ARIN6901, Network Society, The University of Sydney (Master in Digital Communication and Culture).


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