Milton Mueller’s new book, Networks and States, is out

by on October 14, 2010 · 1 comment

Although I won’t be able to get around to penning a formal review of it for a couple more weeks, I was excited to get a copy of Milton Mueller‘s new book, Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance, in the mail today. I looks like a terrific treatment of some important cyberlaw issues. Here’s the summary:

Mueller identifies four areas of conflict and coordination that are generating a global politics of Internet governance: intellectual property, cyber-security, content regulation, and the control of critical Internet resources (domain names and IP addresses). He investigates how recent theories about networked governance and peer production can be applied to the Internet, offers case studies that illustrate the Internet’s unique governance problems, and charts the historical evolution of global Internet governance institutions, including the formation of a transnational policy network around the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society).

As a fan of Net-related political taxonomies and philosophical paradigms, I couldn’t help but quickly jump ahead to the very interesting concluding chapter on “Ideologies and Visions,” in which Mueller examines “the political spectrum of Internet governance.”  There, on page 268, I was very excited to see this statement in his section on “Elements of Denationalized Liberalism”:

Cyber-libertarianism is not dead; it was never really born.  It was more a prophetic vision than an ideology or “ism” with a political and institutional program.  It is now clear, however, that in considering the political alternatives and ideological dilemmas posed by the global Internet we can’t really do without it, or something like it.  That primal vision flagged two fundamental problems that still pervade most discussions of Internet governance: (1) the issues of who should be “sovereign” — the people interacting via the Internet or the territorial states constructed by earlier populations in complete ignorance of the capabilities of networked computers; and (2) the degree to which the classical liberal precepts of freedom get translated into the context of converged media, ubiquitous networks, and automated information processing.

Amen, brother!  As a devoted cyber-libertarian myself, I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear Mueller make that case.  I look forward to tearing through the entire tract right after I finish a couple of other books.

Incidentally, Mueller, who is a Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, also penned a terrific book on ICANN and global Internet governance issues back in 2002: Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace. At the time, I hosted a Cato event for him and you can still find a grainy old Real Player video of it here.  I’m shocked by how much less gray hair Milton, Harold Feld, and I had just 8 years ago!

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