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In his view, much of human history can be explained as the conflict between hierarchies — embodied by the secular tower that stands at the centre of so many Italian cities — and networks, symbolised by the market square in which the tower typically stands.Today's version of the tower is the nation state; today's square is the internet.
We, also, live in an increasingly frightening and anarchic world, destabilised by technological change.
In our anti-elitist age, many self-consciously metropolitan, cosmopolitan people automatically distrust the idea of hierarchy.
They consider themselves citizens not of a nation, but of a nebulous 'global community'.
Soon, almost every major city in Europe had its own social network of Protestant radicals, locked in an increasingly bitter war of words with Catholic adversaries.
As each side retreated into its own echo chamber, and as the hysterical denunciations mounted, violent rhetoric turned to violence.
Faced with an unprecedented barrage of revolutionary ideas, Europe's Catholic rulers were thrown onto the defensive.