Christmas is the ultimate “network”, where everything connects to everything else. Except that Christmas forms a sentimental chain, inherently nostalgic and backward looking, historically a recent phenomenon in our contemporary version and shaped by inescapable live-above-your-means ideologies. Christmas networks stand in contrast to other profit-chains based on geographies, migrations, kinship outside the immediate family, and most of all trust – spheres based on earned trust and deserved kinship, rather than the old-time Christmas networks stemming from sentiment.
All these are, of course, metaphors, especially the largest of them – networks. Ultimately all language is inescapably metaphorical, as linguists wisely teach. But metaphors come in flavors and types, as well as degrees of significance and hugely varied gradients of utility. Among metaphors, the network clusters are far more pertinent to the present global situation than many other metaphors. Contagion, for example, pales by comparison, especially the contagion of deficit and going bust.
Robert Guest’s new book Borderless Economics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) eloquently presents a crucial aspect of the case for networks – the kinship networks that enhance our lot – but there are many others. Networks did not arise in the last few decades, yet they have never been more important, as Guest demonstrates, than right now.