Challenged by global flows of capital, goods, people, technologies, information and movements, nation-states find it increasingly difficult to order a society onto a territory, to hold its various components on the same axis. Hence the image of a "society out of plumb", which inspires this volume's title. The issue is, however, more general. The role played in our societies by automatic mechanisms and post hoc adjustments has grown too much, and the intentional component of social organisation is receding or assuming authoritarian or dirigiste tendencies. Besides this crisis of the former capitalist order, one may also observe experiments in social and spatial organisation that, despite their provisional and partial nature, suggest potential pathways to change. The author explores some of these, drawing on both theory and research, global society and national contexts; he also examines spontaneous forms of co-operation interpreted in terms of social capital, local production systems, and novel approaches to strategic urban planning.
Arnaldo Bagnasco teaches Sociology at the University of Turin.