Authors Galloway and Thacker--with New York University and the Georgia Institute of Technology respectively--pose a dichotomy between networks and sovereignty. Sovereignty is the longtime, historical form of government and society; often described as "hierarchic." Networks, on the other hand as any contemporary person knows, are newer, postmodern, forms of social organization--or topology--and activity. The difference between sovereignty and network is the difference between architecture and biology.
The co-authors take a "more speculative, experimental approach [resulting in] a series of marginal claims" rather than a theory to try to grasp the essential nature and actual effects of networks; all the while recognizing that "the nonhuman quality of networks is precisely what makes them so difficult to grasp". With sovereignty, leaders--i. e., persons--and laws or conventions were recognizable formative elements. With networks on the other hand, there are no permanent nor widely-accepted leaders and no code of law or centuries of convention forming or even governing them. Yet, there are businesses and services such as protocols and institutions such as Microsoft and Google which strongly influence and in some ways determine the presence and activity of networks. The belief that networks, particularly the Internet, are naturally, intentionally, or inevitably egalitarian is misleading.
The author's "speculative" approach carries them to summaries and critiques of philosophers from widely differing ages and with widely differing ideas and even worldviews; among these, Plato and Hobbes, Foucault and Guattari, Baudrillard and Virilio, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. In accordance with their understanding that they are making only "marginal claims," they do not presume nor work to synthesize such diversified, in some cases exclusionary thoughts. The authors' wide historical and literary learning, however, with their patent familiarity with all aspects of contemporary computer and networking technology allow for continuous illumination. The play of the diversity of the content is stimulating rather than conclusive or even much suggestive.
"Nodes" and "Edges" are the two chief parts of the book within which the play occurs. Nodes (to simplify) are the businesses, or the sources, of networks; the protocols, programs, Microsofts, Myspaces, etc. These will come and go as the field of networks evolves, just like businesses have always done. While the nodes are essential, the authors see the edges are more meaningful for those involved with networks. The edges represent networks' potentials in that they indicate the human desire and choices which give shape to the networks. "What matters more and more is the very distribution and dispersal of action throughout the network, a dispersal that would ask us to define networks less in terms of the nodes and more in terms of the edges..." Yet, ever provisional in their approach, Galloway and Thacker imagine networks could be best comprehended "in terms other than the entire, overly spatialized dichotomy of nodes and edges altogether." But with this as the next-to-last sentence, they do not begin to move onto this ground.