“Any change in the United Nations will be vetoed. The institutions that could do something do not work. And another international order will develop, led by the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which will suck in the United Nations,” predicted this Tuesday the sociologist, former minister and member of the Re-Imagine Europe advisory board Manuel Castells. in a master class on polarization and crisis of democracy, given at CaixaForum Macaya in Barcelona and organized by the La Caixa Foundation, whose vice president, Juan-José López Burniol, made the presentation. In the final part, Álex Rodríguez, deputy director of La Vanguardia, had an open conversation with Castells.

The sociologist did not lavish optimism about the state of the world, faithful to the analyst’s obligation: to be “cold, direct and implacable.”

“We are a society driven by fear,” he indicated as a diagnosis because “trust is broken between people and institutions.” Is there a way out? Yes. Is there hope? Yes, as long as we don’t lose hope…

Polarization focused a good part of the master class. It is part of the crisis of democracy “and leads to violence, without a doubt” (see the shooting of the Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico). “Polarization comes from misunderstandings. It’s social networks! We often say. They are and they are not. Networks amplify and multiply a polarization that is already in society, in people. We have to recover dialogue, the ability to listen to others.”

The key factor to understand this polarization “is the acceleration of social inequality, the greatest in the last fifty years. 44.5% of Europeans have difficulties making ends meet.”

The second driver of polarization is the reaction to the movement for women’s equality, which provokes a male reaction – the angry white men of the United States -, something relatively normal given that “no one has ever abandoned their privileges without offering resistance.” but especially alarming because it is young men who resist the most and consider themselves the ones discriminated against.

Thirdly, xenophobia despite the fact that “either we make children or we make immigrants. There’s no escape. 25 years ago, Barcelona had 2% foreigners, today they make up 25%.” The perfect scapegoat…

Democracies are going through a delicate moment. “The perennial returns with force: we have war in Europe, a war that no one can win and everyone knows that, but they do not say it openly even though there are around 400,000 deaths. “Russia invaded Ukraine, it is a fact, but it is not about apportioning blame all the time, but about ending the war in the only possible way since no one can win it: by negotiating.”

Gaza is another black dot on the world map, whose only advantage, to understand it, has been to awaken the conscience of university students, mainly in the United States, “including many Jews. The Gaza genocide has mobilized them. The Holocaust has become a pamphlet for whatever genocides are necessary. It is not about the Jewish people, it is not about the people of Israel, but about the most violent Executive that Israel has had in its history. “They are committing genocide and it must be stopped,” Castells said.

By way of hope, Western values. “Our Western values, which if Trump returns, are limited to Europe. We have ethical values, but we practice them less and less.” The EU continues to enjoy the support of 50% of Europeans, increasing compared to the previous decade. Manuel Castells prescribes ambition: if we have managed to manufacture the Airbus, why can’t we create a European Google or similar giants in the field of artificial intelligence?

“Think local and act global,” is one of the professor’s recipes, for whom Ada Colau’s Barcelona gave an example with the participatory processes, although, he admits, there were few citizens involved (57,000 in total).