The Corner

Culture

Uncommon Knowledge: Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower

With social networks like Facebook and Twitter in abundance, the effects of networks on society in the 21st century are inarguable. However, Niall Ferguson, author of The Square and the Tower, argues that networks are not a new phenomenon and have been impacting human culture from the beginning of history.

Niall Ferguson and I discuss networks and hierarchies throughout history in this episode of Uncommon Knowledge. Ferguson breaks down what he means by networks and hierarchies using the imagery of the Piazza Del Campo in Siena, where the Torre del Mangia, representing the hierarchy, casts a long shadow over the Piazza Del Campo, representing the network. Ferguson argues that this powerful imagery invokes the essence of his book and the intertwined nature of networks and hierarchies within society.

Ferguson goes on to discuss the importance of networks in social movements throughout history, including Martin Luther and the Reformation, Paul Revere and the American Revolution, Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, and social media and Donald Trump. He argues that a networked world is a dangerous world, in that it allows movements and societies to advance in unexpected ways.

About the guest:

Niall Ferguson, MA, DPhil., is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard, where he served for twelve years as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is the author of 15 books, most recently The Square and the Tower.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Most Popular

U.S.

Americans Are Royally Confused about Monarchy

Conventional wisdom regarding America’s relationship with royalty goes something like this: Americans have no time for monarchy as a political concept but can’t get enough of the British royal family. The American media’s round-the-clock coverage of the recent royal wedding certainly seems ample evidence of ... Read More
Elections

The Trump Rationale

Why exactly did nearly half the country vote for Donald Trump? Why also did the arguments of Never Trump Republicans and conservatives have marginal effect on voters? Despite vehement denunciations of the Trump candidacy from many pundits on the right and in the media, Trump nonetheless got about the same ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Collapse of the Collusion Narrative

It is now clear that Russian attempts at interference in the 2016 election, though somewhat outrageous, were ineffectual, unconnected with any particular party, a small effort given what a country of Russia’s resources and taste for political skullduggery and chicanery is capable of, and minor compared with the ... Read More
White House

Why the Left Won’t Call Anyone ‘Animals’

If you want to understand the moral sickness at the heart of leftism, read the first paragraph of the most recent column by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne: It’s never right to call other human beings ‘animals.’ It’s not something we should even have to debate. No matter how debased the behavior ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Trump’s Superpower

President Trump has a magic power. No, it isn’t the ability to engage in four-dimensional chess, or even to mystically connect with the “common man.” It’s simply this: He can make Democrats defend anything. Democrats have increasingly defined themselves by opposing anything Trump does. Trump, unlike ... Read More