Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age

Sociologist Manuel Castells examines the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other social movements that have emerged in the Internet Age. He shares his observations on the recurring patterns in these movements: their origins, their use of new media, and their goal of transforming politics in the interest of the people. Castells presents what he sees to be the shape of the social movements of the Internet age, and discusses the implications of these movements for social and political change.

  • Date of recording: Thu, 2012-08-23
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00:23 Welcome address

CB: Well, good afternoon everybody. I am Carolyn Brown. I direct the Office of Scholarly Programs and the John W. Kluge Center here at the Library of Congress. And it’s my great and sincere pleasure to welcome you here this afternoon for what I know will be a very interesting and mind-expanding lecture by Dr. Manuel Castells. And the title of the lecture is “Networks of Outrage and Hope.”

Before we begin the program which is about networks and digital things, I’m going to ask you though to turn off the buzzing of your digital things. If you would turn off cellphones and anything else that will go off and interfere with the program recording and the speaker. The John W. Kluge Center which has organized this event was established by none other than John W. Kluge with a very generous endowment to create the scholarly venue on Capitol Hill with the finest mature scholars might have opportunities to bring their wisdom and their knowledge to the nation’s leaders and policy makers. A space where as we like to say, the world of affairs and the world of ideas with the thinkers and doers might have the opportunity to come together in mutually enriching conversation.

The center also supports a rising generation of the world’s most promising junior fellows as well. And the idea was that these two groups, the seniors and the juniors will have an opportunity at least from time to time to come together and form a very vibrant intellectual community. In connection with that, we also have a number of lectures occasionally, small symposium, based primarily on the work of our scholar’s allocation will do a small conference on something else. If you want to know more about the center and the programs, you can sign up at the back table, leave your email and we’ll send you RSS feeds and there are also brochures that will tell you more about the Kluge Center.

Today’s speaker, Dr. Manuel Castells, is the Kluge Chair in Technology and Society and authority on the information age and in sociological implications. Dr. Castells is a University professor and the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society at the University of Southern California. He is professor emeritus of sociology and professor emeritus of city in regional planning at the University of California Berkeley where he taught for 24 years. He has other appointments but I’m not going to go into all of those. I could go on to won about him but I am going to say that Dr. Castells is a member of the Library Scholar’s Council. And in his time here, this summer which is been too short, but in his time here this summer he’s been very helpful to the Library as we thought through for ourselves the implications of the digital age on our work.

Dr. Castells has been tracking and studying the communications revolution for 25 years. Many of us may really realize he’s been going on that long but in fact it has. I’m not going to provide the titles and details of the over 26 books, his art—he’s authored. But to give you what I think is the most concise of what he’s been up to for these 25 years, well, I guess it’s more than 25 years, but over the major part of his career, I want to site—to read a citation—oops, that was—right here in March, he received the Holberg International Memorial Prize from the Parliament of Norway. And I think their citation very wonderfully and concisely sums up his accomplishments.

Manuel Castells is the leading sociologist of the city and new information and media technologies. His ideas and writings have shaped our understanding of the political dynamics of urban and global economies in the network society. He has illuminated the underlying power structures of the great technological revolutions of our time and their consequences. He helped us to understand how social and political movements have co-evolved with the new technologies. So this is an opportunity for all of us to understand and learn in new ways from our distinguished colleague and I can now say my friend, Manuel Castells.

05:30 Introduction

MC: Thank you, Carolyn. Let me just, in one second, express my gratitude to the Kluge Center and particularly to its Director, Dr. Carolyn Brown, for giving me the opportunity to share with you this afternoon my most recent research which concerns precisely the relationship between a new technologies and new social movements. Certainly, these social movements are not created by technology. Technology in itself doesn’t produce anything. It’s the technology we’ve include the fabric of society, culture, politics, which really become significant.

So in the last two years, unexpectedly, in number of major social movements spread in countries around the world, from Iceland where the most important movement started, to Tunisia, and then from Tunisia to most Arab countries, and then from Spain to the United States, and all these are specific connections. There’s no conspiracy but this by reality. There are specific connections and then from there to the world. In fact, there had been in the last two years, there had been demonstrations, occupations in thousands, thousands of cities around the world including over one thousand in the United States. They are mapped in my book. And this goes on.

Just this week, the student movement in Chile just searched again. And this is a relentless way of social movements, luckily beyond the attention of the media and the indifference of the politicians. So even, you know, in specific country that didn’t have this kind of social movement, Israel, in July, October 2011, had the largest social mobilization of Israel in history with more than 500,000 people in the country or 1,000,000 people participated in demonstrations, sittings, et cetera, for several months. And again, the media have not reported carefully unless there is violence and then of course, this nice footage.

The motives and outcomes of this movement are very diverse. In the west, they were mainly prompted by protest against the mismanagement of government, of the major financial crisis that started in 2008 and still goes on as Europe these days. In the Arab countries, by combinations of food crisis and the rejection of the dictatorial regimes, that have had many specific expressions of protest but that were savagely repressed and destroyed over the years, including the last one in Egypt in 2008. And suddenly, the governments could not cope with it. Even if there has been such a diversity, in old cases, there was an individual and collective feeling of outrage towards social injustice and of humiliation by the arrogance of the authorities. These are two key fillings in the matter.

But what I want to argue in this lecture on the basis of observation is that there is a lastly common pattern that transcends cultural and institutional context. To identify this pattern, I did over all these past two years, fieldwork in—by myself and by network of collaborators, colleagues, students, in a number of countries including Spain, United States, several European countries, the Arab countries, and also we examine a number of secondary sources and reports on the internet.

The result is a book about to be published, I could say even this is the first time I specifically address the content of this book, you could considered it the launching of the book, I—probably the regulations of the library would not allow the actual launching of the book. That will take place in London in early October, is a book title, Networks of Outrage and Hope and is published Polity Press. And the only reason I’ve said that - it is not a commercial advertising - is simply to tell you that I will go to the essence of the matter and you can find in this book all the empirical details, all the data, all the appendixes, all the things that I’m saying, I’m not saying they are demonstrated but at least they are illustrated by the material that is gathered and presented in this book.

And more than that, the analysis that I will present here and in the book is still preliminary because we lack sufficient perspective and we don’t have enough information. So it—all these are very tentative. However, this analysis in fact is rooted in a much broader framework of theory what I call grounded theory which is theory always supported by evidence. This is the only theory I do, presented in a book published in 2009 by Oxford University Press, “Communication Powe”r.

Communication Power, that book, presents a theory of power as based on communication with number of case study, but fundamentally it’s a theory of power. And I will give you this theory in a nutshell, so that’s the convenient way to summarize 600 pages, to express the notion that we—this is the background of what we are going to go in specifically into the movements, because it fits; it fits. And when that’s unfit, I will change the theory. I will not change the data.

12:43 Studying power relations

My point is that power relations are the most important subject of study in social sciences at large. For the very simple reason, that they are the foundation of relationships of society, because those who have power shape the institutions of society according to the values and interest, as simple as that. So let’s say, power relationships are the DNA of society, right? Cherchez la femme? No. Cherchez le pouvoir. So power in social theory, we have a ton of tradition of theories and power. Basically, you can reduce to two forms of power which are often combined in history.

One is that trajectory of intellectual understanding of power that comes from Machiavelli to Max Weber, power as the monopoly, the legitimate monopoly of violence. In myself, I take out the legitimate. Power as monopoly of violent, legitimate or not legitimate, of course, that state power.

But there’s another tradition which throughout the history of social theory has been extremely important, unless often cited by both right and left. Power as persuasion, power as cultural hegemony, from Gramsci to Michel Foucault, power is the ability to shake the minds. I believe in the saying, in the formula just to simplify things, that shaping the minds in the long run is more effective than torturing the bodies because ultimately, our decisions, our behavior, is governed fortunately by our brains, by our minds that include of the heart, the brain. And therefore, if people ultimately think otherwise that when this established in the values and interest of the institutions, ultimately, this will permeate the institutions or will change the institutions and therefore we change.

Until fundamentally, fundamentally, the power is in our minds although there is always a combination between question and intimidation and persuasion and framing the mind as just like of on a whole steam in political cognition, cognitive science are used now. Framing the minds is the most important thing. However, this does not mean that we are all governed by ill intention people, manipulating or repressing us. This is our relationships. And therefore, relationships, our relationship is not one side, it’s both sides, is power, and what I call counter power. In all societies, we would have the one rule to understand history in the human species is wherever there is domination, there is resistance to domination. Now how these resistances repress with which kind of outcomes, but it’s a different matter and a matter of specific content.

But fundamentally, the whole dynamics of history is institutions being shaped by those in power and then being resisted by those who don’t have enough influence or representation in terms of their values and interest, and ultimately over running the resistance of the dominant hindrance in the institutions, sometimes through violence, sometimes through election, sometimes through moral persuasion, and ultimately creating new institutions which reproduce new power relationships which we’ll be challenged later by a new people who are not represented, et cetera, but you would say it’s a romantic vision of history but they say it’s an empirically grounded reason of history.

That’s why revolutions are always betrayed. But in the way of betraying them, there is some changes in relationship to what happened before. Now, if persuasion and reframing the human mind is a fundamental part of social dynamics, how this happens? Well, it happens through the minds, right? By necessity and how the mind work, I’m not at all a neuroscientist, but neuroscientist have already detected that they were through communication processes. Meaning, what reaches our brains are signals from social networks, natural networks that through communication networks reach our neuron networks. And our network process, these signals, this information in relationship to the stock of knowledge, ideas, images, et cetera, that are already installed in our networks and they work with this material. Communication being understood of course are the process of sharing meaning through information exchange.

Now, if communication networks are critical for the formation of our intentions, our values, our behavior, it becomes obvious that if there is a transformation of communication in society, there has some effects on the transformation of these networks and therefore, on the transformation of the human mind and the pro—and the way in which human mind processes the signals of our social and natural environment. And there has been, as we know, a dramatic transformation in communication, technology, organizational transformation and institutional transformation in the last, let’s say, 20 years.

Carolyn was mentioning that what people think is the future in fact is the past. In many case, it remind you that the internet was deployed for the first time in 1969 so it’s an old technology. They are simply new incarnation and new forms of communication from this matrix of a network, computer networks. This transformation which is multidimensional has many aspects and that what this analyzing my Communication Power book, but in one work is the shift from mass communication to mass self-communication.

20:06 Reshaping mass communication

Not that traditional mass communication disappeared but it’s also being reshaped by the new forms of mass communication which are self-communication. They are much bigger, they can reach everywhere like the traditional mass communication. But at the same time, these are networks that are multimodal, interacting, but the messages can be self-directed, self-created, self-retrieved, and self-combined. And since everybody does this, ultimately, the network of communication becomes a multimodal, interactive global-local communication network. This is mass self-communication. You can say is internet plus a mobile wireless communications, now the internet is basically all and will be increasingly.

So—and wireless is the combinations of both that provides the technological basis in the broadest sense of this social destructor of the—what I defined time ago as the network society, but in more specific terms in relationship to a transformation of socialize communication, of communication that can reach everybody in society is deep a transformation of this system.

Now, counter-power has been organized here on social mobilization throughout history, always, which is what we usually call at least, I call, and we can discuss it later, social movements, which are not necessarily political targets but they are social movement aiming at changing the values of society, the way we think about everything. Women movement, environmental movement, but in history, the movement for liberty, the movement, the civil rights movement, so movement that are specifically aim at changing the way we think things in society. And by the way, they can be of different political and ideological tonalities. They are not the good guys of the social movement and again, the big bad wolf for the political system. No. Political system can be nice and evil and the same thing for the social movement. It can be racist social movement, sexy social movements, to restore patriarchalism, et cetera, et cetera, in both ways. It’s simply analytical distinction.

Now, from this point of view, what I’m going to analyze and present is the common patterns of social movements in the internet age, not the—is essential that they are in the internet age. It is essential that they use the internet and wireless communication platform. But of course, this is not—this is the medium. This is not the cost, this is not the search, but is important, has specific consequences, and this is what I will try to show. Attention, here, I’m not normative at something that usually gets people enrage with me in my work and in my lectures that the even if my sympathies are obvious, although not very clear, they—when I do my analysis, when I do my research, I take a huge analytical distance and I am not normative.

So regardless of my personal sympathy with some of these movements, not with all, please take it as an attempt to report back to you what I have found and then we can discuss on that. And when—you will argue well but this is not right, I will tell you what the movement would respond not what I will be responding. That’s very important because as a person, as a citizen, I’m fully involved in society. As an analyst, I am the most traditional kind of academic, trying to establish what I find in terms of the traditional practices of scientific research, whatever scientific means in every context. And so here is my report.

24:04 Historical patterns in the emergence of social movements

Social movements throughout history usually emerge from a combination of two things. The deterioration, the degradation of living conditions that make the life of people at one point unbearable, and on the other hand, by the deep distrust, these are the political institutions that manage their lives. It’s the combination of two. We are in trouble and people who should manage our lives are not responsive and they do their thing and not our thing, throughout history, in every instance, the two things. And we know that in the last years, the two elements had conquered in most of the world.

We can later talk in the discussion about the different—the state of affairs in different part of the world which should provide some nuance to this analysis. But fundamentally, this is the combination of both. So when this happens, that this life deteriorates or something outrageous happened and then institutions are not responsive, then people take matters into their own hands. And by doing so, they quit. The institutional avenues, the procedure institutionally defined to express their protest and to present their ideas and their projects.

Well, this is a risky behavior because the institutions are constructed to reward you when you follow the rules and to punish you when you don’t. In many different ways, starting with delegitimizing all actions in the media, anarchist, terrorist, Nazis, whatever, so not only repressing with the police but repressing in the mind, these responsible people who want to destroy democracy. They just forgot to say that most people in the world think regional democracy and this include the United States and the Western Europe, with the exception usually of Scandinavia. All the data, all the opinion polls, all different sources of the lasting years, are in my book and you can check it there. That’s crisis of legitimacy and the traditional political science of analysis.

Now, in the historical experience and in the movements that I have observed, social movements are emotional movements. They start with emotions. And here I connect with the most recent, neuro-scientific research, Antonio Damasio and others that show the fundamental role of emotions in triggering, shaping, organizing, the human mind from their feelings follow and from their—this more rational decision making follow but at the roots, emotions are fundamental. So this was a movement and not problematic movements are emotional movement that starts with emotions, which kind of emotions. And here we have a whole field of research in political science and in political communication which is associated with the—fell of thought has a little label.

Well, the label of this one is the theory of affective intelligence would be in political communication, political science, equivalent of the emotional and intelligence in psychology. Because all comes from the main source and the neuroscience as understanding emotions are the motivation of human behavior. So in the specific terms where the theory of effective intelligence on the basis of experimental psychology, experiments in psychology, argue, this is not me, these are just incorporating a whole stage of studies, they argue that the trigger of social mobilization is anger, which is a psychologically defined emotion. Under repressor is fear. A repressor is fear.

And by the way, in some interpretations on why fear is the most fundamental emotion of human life, this is not scientifically proven but some of the psychologists play with that is linked to evolutionary theory. Why? Because we are all the successors, the heirs of cowards, because who didn’t run fast enough, because they were courageous, they were eaten up. And therefore, they say selection of the species in which the more courageous you are, the less likely you are to survive and the less likely your children and grandchildren will be there to exist. So self-preservation is linked to cowardice, therefore, to fear. And fear is the repressor. Now, but this is not fatality. Fear can be overcome and is overcome. Fear triggers anxiety which is associated with the avoidance of danger, but fear is overcome by sharing and identifying with others.

30:02 Emotions and people gathering on the internet

I am trembling but you are trembling too, let’s hold hands. And you are trembling too, let’s hold hands, and then it becomes a circle. Why people hold hands in any social [inaudible] while we are all trembling. And when we cannot hold hands in the street because the police comes too quickly, we hold hands in the internet. We get together in the internet. We share. We identify. And just by being together not agreeing on anything, just agreeing on the anger, on the anger, not agreeing on a program, not voting for a party, just we are all angry. And then by sharing anger but sharing it together through togetherness, fear is overcome. And when fear is overcome, then there is a process of mobilization, we then shifts again psychological research, shifts to another very potent positive emotion, enthusiasm.

So you go from anger that overcomes fear to then enthusiasm, that things can be different, hope, that the title of my book, Outrage ans Hope, the connection between the two. Now, this hope and this mobilization is organized from the very beginning through this sharing, through what people called communicative action. Meaning, people communicate, they share, and then they share process, they share enthusiasm, and they keep growing together, building networks of communication. The recent transformation, in the field of communication, allow people to build autonomous communication in the internet networks with much less, I wouldn’t say not control, but much less control than ever in history on the part of the established powers, the political or economic or media corporations.

We can discuss later about that but it’s clear that even if the internet is still control and so on, in fact, it’s not. It’s surveilled, surveilled. What is the difference between controlled and surveilled? Well, if the important things to share the message and to build a networks, if you are surveilled, what the repressors will find is who said that and then go and get it. But the message goes, the message goes. So if you are the messenger, that’s a problem. But if you are the messenger, you live forever, you don’t care. And therefore, this communicative autonomy built into the new system which therefore can form and reform networks constantly by the simple ability of these networks to reprogram themselves.

So the movements that I have studied and those that are similar and are around the world come from this part, come from crisis of the economy, crisis of legitimacy, simultaneously, outrage provoked by just actions. And at the same time, they are able to form quickly and autonomously in the internet networks and then they go into collective action. They require an emotional mobilization, triggered by outrage and by hope of a possible change.

33:56 Social movements of the internet age

I would argue that more and more, these types of movements represent the emergence of a new pattern of social movements which I call in the internet age because they could not take place without the internet in this particular form. Again, it’s not they’re caused by the internet but their shape is caused by the internet as let’s say the working class movement in the 19th century could not have perform without the presence of industrialization and the connection to largest scale assembly factories where the working class was materially form in addition to the thoughts where the movement and could be connected, so the factories where the moments of formation of the networks and the thoughts where the moments of hope towards the future.

There are a number of characteristics of these movements, of all these countries, of what I have studied. So rather than giving you nice anecdote from here and there which we can do later if you resist until the end of the discussion, I am going to synthesize what I have found that is common in all cases. And look, we are talking about Tunisia, we are talking—I did not talk about [inaudible] but the 2009 movement in Iran was quite similar. We’re talking about Tunisia and Iceland, nothing can be more different but they are common patterns. We are talking about Spain and the United States. We are talking about Chile. We are talking about England.

Now, the intensity of the movement, the success of the movements and the outcomes of the movements are very different, but the pattern is very similar. Why similar? First of all, I’m going to give you my laundry list about the different aspects that together form the pattern.
The art network, of course, the art network. First, always first in the internet because it’s the space of communicative autonomy where they can form and organize and emerge from this chaotic system of outrage and so that people without often knowing each other get together in the networks. The most important case is Egypt in which the 2008 mobilization in traditional terms was crushed before it could emerge. While in 2011, they started in the internet following the example of Tunisia and they form in the internet on a large scale, a critical scale before going into the streets, before going into demonstrations. So they form first in communication networks.

Why? Because communication networks have always been at the search of social movements like history, would be pamphlet, would be preaches, from the church or from the—at mosque, where it could be led later on radio, television, communication has always been at the center of social movement because only by people get in together in their minds, they can knock together. Otherwise, they are already puzzled, organized, institutionalized, control by the institutions of society. However, the networking, even if it’s always starts in the internet or in some cases in the mobile phone networks, which of course more and more is the same thing than the internet but this both things at the same time.

But even so, the networking form is multimodal. It includes social networks, online and offline, as well as preexistent social networks, family networks, friend’s networks, and very important in the case of the Arab countries, soccer club networks, funds networks, very important. Remember why, unfortunately, a few months ago in Port Said, a police provocation killed the many little—hand little fans, the Al-Ahly, the Cairo—on the Cairo soccer team because the Ah-Ahly fan networks have actually been decisive at the beginning of the revolution, contact through the internet but once the thing were in the street, the soccer fan network. So everything that this network, meaning what, connection between individuals, not organizations, not banners, not flyers, not party, no leaders, networks. People connected to each other, trusting each other.

Moreover, networks are within the movement, with other movements on the world, with the internet blogosphere, with the media, and with society at large. Networking technologies are essential because they provide the platform for a continuing expensive networking practice that evolves with the changing shape of the movement. The movement evolves, the networks in the internet evolve easily without anything to be decided or agreed upon.

Moreover, they do not need a formal leadership and no commandment control center. They organize themselves in terms of the decision. There’s no anyone who would say, “Do that,” it would be debated in the networks. And where things go, go where the network goes. Again, a fundamental characteristic. This—the center structure maximizes chances of participation in the movement because they are open-ended networks. You don’t need a membership card, you don’t need to agree on anything, you go into the debate and you go insert the mobilizations and not in others depending on how you connect to the network.

40:00 Networking protects movements

It also reduces the vulnerability of the movement to the threats of repression because of how you kill a network. You kill one note in the network, the characteristic of the network, they reproduce themselves. They have a biological logic. They keep going. You cut a node, there are many other nodes. That’s why I have proposed the term that these are rhizomatic revolutions, they are rhizomes. They’re underground, they emerge, they go down but they all are connected all the time. And sometimes emerge in the internet, sometimes not, sometimes going to the square, sometimes going to political mobilization, et cetera.

Moreover, networking of the movement protects the movement, not only against repression but against its own threats of bureaucratization and manipulation. Anyone trying to manipulate or assume that he has to put the movement with no one telling him or her about that is similarly flamed, not survival. The more you want to be leader the less you will be leader. The more people will kill you on the net. Second, while they stuck in the internet, they become a movement by occupying the urban space. They always grow into the urban space.

Why? There are couple of things. First, the togetherness which is fundamental requires at some point the most direct expression of emotional bonding. You touch the other. Internet, you connect but you don’t still touch the other. But when you are together, when you share the danger and when you share space, when you share a new form of being together in the city, then something else happen. There’s a moment of psychological and personal reformation. Moreover, if you are to govern a space, anyone can join by just going there, even disagreeing with the discussions, with the goal, with everything, but you don’t have to agree on anything. Just by being there, you are part of the movement, simply by being there. So it’s literally open-ended in that sense.

And then the problem starts. Some people join for the opposite reason that why are there. Whereas, you know one part of the Tea Party Movement in the United State joined the movement that fundamentally worth more on the democratic side when at both they share the same thing. They share the rejection of traditional political institutions. So in that sense, that’s why I say it depends on your opinion if you are for the movements or not, but the movements are such are autonomous, potent, and sharing certain projects.

The other reason why movement needs urban space is because since they don’t have a form of institutional action, they have to exist in society by being there, by being visible, visible for the media, visible for society, and also by challenging the institutions. If you say, “I cannot occupy this space” and now you occupy this space, well, you can send the police but you have to acknowledge that something is going on in terms of the protests of society. That’s why technically speaking, in all these movements, they always have a simple norm. If we are 20, they are going to kill us. And if we are 2,000, much less, and if we are 20,000 they will let us be quiet as long as we’re 20,000. So there is—the capacity to challenge society, each—is a different form when go through physical occupation.

The space that is organized between this autonomy of these internet networks and the autonomy of urban space occupied by the movement, that space is a form what I call the third space which I call the space of autonomy, the space of autonomy in the networks, the state—the space of autonomy in the communities that are formed locally. This space of autonomy is the form of existence of the new social movements.

Thirdly, these movements are all local and global at the same time. They rise for local condition, local culture, local values, in their own terms, in their own language, and root it into the specific conditions that provoke their outrage. They have different faiths. They have different political orientation. They have different relationship to gender, to class, to race, et cetera. They are local. But at the same time, they immediately connect to the world and they immediately bring problems of the world into their discussion, into their debates. They are both things at the same time. They are local and global as the internet. Internet is local and global. These movements are local and global.

In terms of their genesis, these movements are largely spontaneous in their origin. Usually, they are triggered by spark of indignation, are the name of the Spanish movement, the Indignants. People are indignated by something. In some cases, in the cases of the Arab revolutions, self-emulation, repression, savagery, from the dictatorship, in the case of Syria, 19 children younger than 12, younger than 14 being tortured for having had even a graffiti, that’s how it started the Syrian revolution. In other cases like in Europe or in American [inaudible], Spain, United States, is indignation against the behavior not so much of the finance elite but of the political elite being subservient to the financial elite, the obvious thing in the United States. They say the [inaudible] is not us, that’s the typical thing. There are solid opinion polls that yes, that people consider that in America. 47 percent of the people are against the financial executives and consider them responsible from—for the economic crisis.

But when asked about the relative responsibility between government of all political orientations and bankers say government, government. I think our governments were supposed to protect us and in fact they protect the voters against us and that’s where the indignation comes. And that’s why there is a reaction link to the economic crisis both in European and the United State. The financial crisis has meant for people of all persuasion. The bankers have the government in their pockets. They ring the world, they ring the economy, they control everything. And when they are in trouble, they are paid a lot with our money. And this goes from Greece to Ohio.

These movements are vital. They follow the logic of the internet networks. First, because of the vitality of messages in the internet and particularly images, images have a tremendous vital effect. People talk a lot of Facebook and Twitter, et cetera, the most important social network in the internet in terms of the internet world are the YouTube because the power of the images that everybody can generate citizen [inaudible], remember. You have—anybody can with their cellphone, medially record an image, make a video, upload it, and seeing people like you being massacred, being brutalized, being in the United States, being paper gas in your eyes for doing nothing, in other country just machine gun, but depending on every context, people immediately become indignant.

The more there is a violent repression, the more they support for the movement. There’s more fear but more support at the same time. The transition from outrage to hope is accomplished in all movements by deliberation in the space of autonomy. There is indignation, there is outrage. But then when people construct their space of autonomy, meaning, both in the internet and they occupy the space, they start debating. Why so? What can we do?

Deliberation in the traditional [inaudible] sense, in the traditional [inaudible] just that’s not happened in the parliament, it happens in the civil society. Horizontal networks both in the internet and the urban space create this togetherness that I was mentioning about and the horizontality of networks supports corporation and solidarity with—while undermining the need for formal leadership. Now, here’s at one point. These movements have been considered to be very ineffective. They debate for hours, for days, about what to do a little thing. So they are ineffective. Well, except that they are asking them to be effective on a logic this is not theirs. Because the fact that everything can be challenged, it means that everybody feel that they are nobody’s there, that they can be there and talk and contribute. And yes, grassroots, deliberate democracy is very slow and very painful, and many people get fed up, but they have tried.

50:09 New, non-programmatic notions of democracy

Our societies, they have tried and the largest every other possible avenue. Give me a leader, give me pro and we go. Well, we go, it usually doesn’t work and when it works, it ends up in institutional blockage. But very important, these movements are extremely critical from traditional, radical politics, from—particular from less with of level [inaudible], formal anarchist, organized anarchist, with by definition if they’re organized, they are not anarchist, that’s the point. They are extremely critical of all these groups because they say, well, they keep repeating the revolutionary mantra forever and nothing happens. So—and they are organizing the revolution but in their minds, in their homes, nothing happens in society. So let just see together what we can do.

No ideology, except the ideology of [inaudible] which is not an ideology of course, but it’s a different one, less formalized and less blocking. They are highly self-reflective. They keep all the time asking themselves, what do we want? Who we are? How we can contribute or not contribute? There are endless debates and endless proposals. There’s a fury of every possible proposal. People invent here. I have seen in the Barcelona occupation some of the most sophisticated discussion about Heidegger, Heidegger and the revolution, Heidegger and democracy. By the way, people in [inaudible] usually much more educated than the average of society. And some people say, “Well, that’s a problem so these are the real working class guy.” Well, that’s insulting the working class guy. But in addition who—what happens is that some people debate at the very high levels, self-reflective but you have not read Plato, you still can say your thing and will be discussed and will be integrated into the debate and into the proposal.

Now, in their origin, they are all nonviolent movements. And I emphasize that because this is absolutely critical. Including in the Arab revolutions, we are now fortified by the civil war in Libya, first, and then now in Syria. Well, the Syrian movement started as absolutely peaceful movement for months and months and months. And quite they were massive. Before there was any arm resistants in Syria, over 7,000 people have been killed in peaceful demonstrations in the streets. Yes, at one point, they keep massacring you, there’s a moment in which people cannot overcome that. But by not overcoming that, and this has been debated many times in the movement, you destroy yourself even if you win.

Why? Because who are going to win, the peaceful demonstrators, the civil society, no. The people financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, who organized the Free Syrian Army in the Sunni-Shia debate in the Middle East, okay? So then, yes, you can overthrow aside but, but who is overthrowing aside. And they lose and then they start fracturing and then they say—they lose the legitimacy [inaudible] southern population. At the same time, it’s logical, it’s normal. I’m just saying, when a social movement goes from social movement, democratic, nonviolent social movement to a contending faction in a civil war. Even if you win the civil war, you have lost already your existence as a social movement, but it is very difficult to just keep the nonviolence going. And in every country, the debate of a violence and nonviolence is fundamental because nonviolence means heroic resistance in the long term.

Violence means losing the legitimacy in the society in the short term. Movements are also rarely programmatic. They are not programmatic. They don’t have a program. But in other words, they have thousand programs. You know, everybody has an idea and many commissions and many committees elaborate programs. I—in Spain I participated in elaborating a reform of the electoral law which is one of the most important things because all the laws in all the countries are pipe. They are made in the interest of the party who wrote a lot and not in the interest of democracy.

This crazy thing about the American Electoral College from the medieval institutions of the United States makes everybody crazy. The notion of one person on vote is not respected. Anyway, well yes, one country, Israel, and that’s interesting. That’s interesting, direct proportionality. Then political scientist and they have said, “Well, it’s ineffective, how everybody can have an opinion. We have to consolidate blogs.” Yeah, sure, you can do that, it’s very effective but you lose the people.

And in the case of Greece, if you want a blatant example, in the last Greek election, that the entire Europeans Standish men pushed to vote for the two large parties, the Conservative Party that won the election got 30 percent of the vote. The opposing left party got 28 percent of the vote. But why then they got absolute majority in the Conservative Party? Because a little clause in the Greek law says that in a pattern of 300 people, the party that wins by one vote gets 50 seats more than allocated by the proportional vote, okay? So again and again and again. So the reaction is that, first, we have to change the power structure before any program can be implemented.

And in the meantime, they are so many proposals on every aspect of life. And one of the most patent movements in Europe has been for agricological food, inside the movement and trying to practice in the movement new principles for agricology. People cannot eat whatever they want. They have to debate before distributing food of any kind. But over all, what they are in essence in terms of the program, they are not programmatic in the sense. They don’t have any specific program. They are fundamentally democratic movements.

The most important thing is the search for democracy, a new form of democracy but not in a program but in a practice. Practicing this kind of democracy and experimenting with ii to see what it is, what is grassroots democracy, what is—they are not challenging representative democracy in the traditional way. They are saying, you know, this representative democracy does not represent. The norms or representation are bias, are changed. The principle is to compliment this democracy which is they don’t use the traditional [inaudible]. Formal democracy will drive democracy, no, no, no.

They say, the representative democracy is okay, it’s not representative. And therefore we have to invent new forms of democracy who—through what people call network democracy which of course is nice and easy to say and try to find it in the debate, in the assembly’s, the local assembly’s, but no one knows what it is. But you know what it is? It’s in Utopia. It’s Utopian. And people say, “So what?” Utopias are not fantasies, are not stupidities. Utopias are ideas about how the world should be and how the political world should be. And Utopias are material force because Utopias take over the minds and the minds can generate new proposals.

All major political ideologist and political systems had been Utopias. Liberalist is the Utopia. Communist is a Utopia. Anarchist is a Utopia. Socialism is the traditional sense of socialist is a Utopia. Utopias are the matrixes of what happens then in real life to a number of intermediation to a number of negotiations between what people want and what really happen in society. And this leads me to final point on what is the connection then between political change and the social movement. Well, social movements per se are not political movements. Although, they are very political, you see, in which sense they are not trying to seize the state. No one seems to turn for into political party and seize the state. When they do that, they become a political party and that’s the different thing. They are trying to transform consciousness to—through this transformation of consciousness, through this awareness of this deliberation then they expect that at some point, citizens will change differently the forms of the state. Crazy? Well, no. Iceland? Yeah, 330,000 people, but not the silly idiots.

01:00:01 A comparison of European and US politics

The highland—Iceland, Iceland as you know, not only brought down the entire government coalition that had been governing since 1927, one part or the other and brought in an eco-social democratic coalition that was always marginal, brought into the government, but not only that. They reformed the economy. They nationalized the banks. They sent to jail all the bankers. They put on trial the Prime Minister. And moreover, they have source in new constitution. Over the internet, 16,000 people participated and they now have a new constitution from source in the internet. Not that this is the end of Iceland but it’s something there. And by the way, the Icelandic economy is the best performing economy in Europe nowadays, better than Germany. According to all the rating agencies, you better trust the sovereign death of Iceland than the sovereign death of Germany because they are stable, because they have control who they are and how they connect.

While Germany ultimately depends in the Spain or Italy go rarely up, Germany goes rarely up. So don’t invest in Germany yet. Now, if they are not trying to transform the political system directly, what happened then? Well, a lot will depend on how the political system reacts. That’s why the title of my conclusion, the book, is Social Movements and the Formed Politics, an impossible law. Maybe, maybe not because if the political class understands that these are symptoms, whatever distorted, whatever exaggerated, whatever in rate sometimes, of a fundamental distrust in society toward the current political institutions.

If they sincerely want to construct and reconstruct democracy rather than get away with crime, if they do that and some may do, Obama is not doing it, some may do, well, things could change. Because throughout history, this has always been the movement of social movements external to the system that at one point open up spaces of debate and freedom into the system. And then the parties that don’t follow that fall apart. I make a comparison with late 19th century Europe in which the political status in the democratic countries, in the democratic countries, England that they—France to some extent, where the conservatives and the liberals, right? And suddenly, the society is transformed. There are new social movements.

We knew ideology that seemed to be crazy, anarchism and socialism, because they represent the new society that was emerging and was not represented in the political institutions. What happened? The liberals disappear, basically. Not the conservatives. Why the conservatives not? Because the conservatives don’t change fundamentally. They change the names, the labels, the framing of the ideology, defending the dominant interest of society is the easiest way. You just go with the flow. We just go whoever is in society. But if you are rest on that in society for the liberals, for the less of the political system, is to represent the interest of society not the interest of the elites, then you have a problem if you don’t do that. The same thing is happening now in Europe, and maybe to some extent, in the United States with the democrats. If they do not represent all the outrage in the nation and lack of hope vis-a-vis the subservience of the political elite, on the financial elites, well, you will have the party and they all—at all you will have or we will have Europe in here, the notion that no government is good, so let’s do it ourselves and [inaudible].

Do we know ourselves to start with? Our taxes, our money, why I should give it to you if I don’t trust you, so not taxes. My defense, I have my gun. Why need—when Europe grabbed his arm already but maybe you’re not—could we—in Washington they use tank that will start distributing, diffusing in Europe the idea that armed citizens are the only ones who can really defend the republic. So to a large extent, if the—let’s say progressive elements on the political system do not respond to the new condition of society, then move and fill in. But at the same time, they don’t have the institutional capacity to do it. But ultimately, the most positive influence of the movement in politics may happen to the change of the basic ideas and the basic themes of society.

In the United States, the notion that there is a cleavage, regardless of the statistical demagogue between the 9 percent and the 1 percent and the 99 percent, no one talks about this. We knew about income inequality. We knew about this, and now the whole society including comedians and let alone in the congress. They started to talk about the 1 percent and the 99 percent. That means what for people? Well, this society, apparently, the society of over 20, no, is with fundamental social inequality. This changes up here, up here. Now, the political response to that depends and the thriving politics can be demagogue, et cetera, but changes the terms of the debate.

You know, one very interesting opinion poll data in the United States is that states has always has refused in the [inaudible] in the notion of social conflict between rich and poor. Classes trouble if you want to call it. Well, according Pew Institute in 2009, the proportion of people who thought that the conflict between rich and poor was the defining conflict in society, were 45 percent. In 2011, 70 percent, meaning, the notion that there is a conflict between rich and poor that is exactly contrary to the American ideology in which the only problem for the poor is that they are not rich yet. But they will. They will eventually become rich. Well, people are saying, no, because of the 99 percent of it because—now—and lastly, the people in the movement, the language of the movement, say all this discussion about what are we accomplishing, what is ultimately the result, they say this is in fact the reflection of the productivity logic of capitalist. If you don’t produce something, you are nothing.

Well, maybe the debate is wrong. Maybe the outcome, the important thing is not the outcome but the process because the process is a transformative force. Why? Because it’s what you do materially. Deliberation, discussion, projection, all these is the material practice and it’s the material practice that changes people’s mind. And that finally, may have necessarily has to translate into something that’s what the movement people say. We don’t—we are going to vote for sure but who cares. We know we are not going to solve the problems in the next election, but what about in the election 20 years from now?

That’s what social movements like the women movement, the environment movement, the civil right movement were saying 20, 25 years ago. It has its different timing. If it’s not in this election, it’s the next society. And that’s the space where social movements are being from. Still the most important thing is how communicative autonomy has impacted the overcoming of fear. And I want to continue by reading a tweet from Tahir Square, from a woman named [inaudible] but the tweet she signed Sullia Strong [phonetic] that read like this. “We have brought down the world of fear. You brought down the world of our house. We’ll rebuild our homes. But you will never build again that world of fear.” And that is the transformation. Thank you for your attention.

01:09:45 Q & A

CB: Okay, Dr. Castells, Dr. Castells has agreed to take questions. Please wait for the microphone.

MC: You handle that. You point at it.

01:10:00 Can social media change the corporate world?

Q: Hi, I’m Mike Nelson and I am a writer for Bloomberg Government. I’m also a professor of internet studies at Georgetown University. I think you’ve done a wonderful job of giving us an overview of what’s happening in social movements targeted at changing national governments. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about how social movements might change corporate government and how—why cuts by consumers, shareholder action might be enabled by social media and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic that that will change the way a corporations function.

MC: Thank you very much. Absolutely. You know, the interesting thing about these movements is that they are multidimensional. They touch on everything. And—but this everything ultimately means how things are managed everywhere. So you’re absolutely right. They focus on government because of the right of the movement was linked to the financial crisis and the disastrous management that government have done with the financial crisis. In some cases, they could even tame the financial crisis. But even when they had more like in the United States has been on the expense of breaking the trust of the citizens in that management. So therefore, the main steam of the movement has concentrated there.

But there are all kinds of discussion on one, of although that you mentioned is absolutely about corporate government. Remember all they discussions about the bank fees, with the bank of America, about the—many people have actually switched from their banks to credit unions in a number of states. But even though in Washington State there are number of experiments in which people are creating their own community banks. And they don’t worry worse than the others at this point. In—I have been investigating in Europe a huge movement of what they call ethical banking in which are literally at this point there are over 5 million people in Europe doing ethical banking, meaning you is part of the cooperative.

I mean, you—and the profits are for the members of the bank. And they invest only in terms to get enough return to keep the bank going. And I have not mentioned because I focused on the more political oriented movement, I have not mentioned my other research which is my next book meaning published in November, not in October, which is called Another Life is Possible, alternative economic culture beyond the crisis, which is also empirically grounded and it’s about all the forms in which people are transforming their lives. And this is a huge debate within the movement. People who are more traditional and social movement, we have to change the counselor. We have to go through a political institute, many other people who are in the movement as well. So when, you know, these are going to be long term. Yeah, we’ll do it. But it is going to be long term. I’m 35, what the hell? I want my better life now, not when we make the revolution. The revolution can wait but I cannot wait. And therefore, a huge movement of time sharing, time banks, and alternative financing, and self-consumption, self-production, economic practices, but under a complete economic logic. And they would actually conquer with time implicit.

In your statement, this in the short term is going to be more materially, practically effective because people know that they already lived differently. At this point in Europe, here I don’t think so. But I don’t know the precise data. In Europe, the majority of people agree with the notion of working less and being faithless. And why? Because, well, life is something else than just work for a pay. Interesting which at the same time is massive unemployment. Well, you can take massive unemployment as a tragedy or as an opportunity.

Since they are not going to employ me anyway, let’s organize the life here on different set of values. And there is an increasing movement in those and even in the most ideological factions, there’s a huge de-growth movement. And they’re arguing for slow in economic growth and actually they’re starting growing negatively, not growing more in terms of the national growth. And as you know, there’s a huge branch of economics now developing, economics of happiness which in other things use the Bhutan, Bhutan for places, the Bhutan Gross National Happiness Index which has been debated in the world. In other words, what I’m saying is that beyond the more specifically political movement.

There is a tectonic change in the culture because there is universal distrust in global financial capitally—not in capitalist, not in other forms of capitalism, in this particular form of capitalism. When you ask people, they are not—the majority, they said, no, capitalism is okay. Is this capitalism? Is this global financial capital with no control speculative, no entrepreneurial, no creating wealth, but inventing wealth and taking power wealth from us? That is one, is a fundamental movement coupled with the crisis of political legitimacy. You link together the two things. People don’t trust those who have their money and don’t trust those who have their votes, we are in a tectonic change, and that has different expressions.

01:16:18 Do common or universal cultural norms exist?

Q: Interested in the intercultural aspects if—of your theory, you didn’t touch much on China or Eastern cultures of other—quite distinctive cultural characteristics is a lot of universalism that you talk about. But when we get to these issues of governance and the way societies work, it reflects some sort of cultural norm, some common values, and the internet phenomena that you talk about communications, the theory you’re espousing, has to affect that in some way or another. Could you perhaps address the intercultural aspects in what makes this universal in your mind so that normality of values, what’s right, wrong, good, bad, what defines the society or affected by your theory.

MC: Thank you. Well, two layers of this. On the one hand, there is no cultural homogeneity in the world, empirically speaking, but cultural diversity is increasing, not diminishing. Except that on top of this, some kind of a global cosmopolitan culture of two kinds. Consumerism that’s in global universal culture and at the same time, humankind as a species with common values of preservation, preservation of the species, preservation of nature, let’s say, ecology in the broader sense. They are the two things. So one is clearly capitalist, the other is not. And these are the universal cultures expanding. And in that sense, there is cultural identity in terms of national, ethnic, religious, et cetera, increasing, but two—these two major cultures that are increasingly shared.

There is another aspect of the shared culture which I think is new and is linked to internet. What this shared is the culture of sharing. Meaning, that I go into the internet, I find my people and I connect and I construct a new subculture, but at the same time in combination with other cultures. But we all agree that the internet is fundamental. That’s the culture of sharing. And that’s why a battle is being already launched, not on the anonymous, many other things in terms of defending the internet. Why? Because the internet is the common grounds of our age. If people feel expropriated from the internet, particularly teenagers or the young people, that’s the only way they can start making bombs. If you take away what they can do in the internet or whatever they want, that’s really something. And so this culture of sharing is quite fundamental.

The political culture, I would say, is to a large extent—still, I would say liberal democracy in the traditional term is growing as they share political culture. In most countries, people agree that the elections are important, are fundamental, but on this and therefore, there is the contradiction within China nowadays. But on the other hand, the sharing of this political culture, in most cases particularly in the social movements, incorporate another dimension. Participatory democracy becomes the new frontier of democracy. Pure representative democracy, we thought participatory democracy, it’s in fact empty and will soon be ineffective in managing the processes of self-government.

Now why is participatory democracy now possible? And there are very interesting discussions about—in terms of the history of the movements that we’re arguing about, racial democracy, participatory democracy, and always in the 19th century, early 20th century, to think everybody agreed with that but was not practical because they have to at one point decide and you could not scale up. Internet allows you to scale up. So the age of network democracy seems to have arrived. So there is an old discussion between marxists and anarchists. Marxists says, “No, power has to be centralized because otherwise it’s not affective.” And anarchists says, “Well, but when he centralizes, then it becomes a dictatorship.” But now anarchists, what they call the neo-anarchist are—because they are not organizational anarchist, are saying, “You know what? You Marxist always said, the development of the productive forces allows different forms of social organization.” That’s exactly what happened but it was not communist. So communist what they tell you of the 19th century, anarchist is the one of the 21st century because now the internet allows decentralize democracy, decentralize participation, collective decision making, et cetera, and I find it’s a fascinating discussion.

01:21:22 The Internet and the question of autonomy

CB: We already have overtime, overtime, but just one last question. [Inaudible] is waiting.

MC: Not my fault.

CB: I think you are the next one - in white.

Q: Profits and people that work in social movements or building them fit in with all these technology. So what do you have to think about that?

MC: Thank you very much. This is a fundamental question, both theoretically and practically. Look, to give a short answer and we can continue the discussion later. Without social networks in the internet these movements would not exist, simply. It would be other social movements. It could be others. But this is a hypothetical question. Every—of this movement, all the protest, all the actions, everywhere, start with the internet. And therefore, the only relevant question in my opinion is which are the material and cultural consequences of going through the internet at least for a substantial part of the movement and the interaction.

The discussion that I found frankly empty about and the revolution be tweeted or not and the revolution was not tweeted, oh, yes, it was tweeted. Well, empirically it was tweeted actually. You cannot explain the wonderful analysis by Gillard, Lawton,  and others in tweet flow, good researchers that show empirically how their tweets organizes the Arab revolutions.

But at the same time were not only the tweets, but without the tweets you cannot explain the process, the development, the participation, et cetera, et cetera, so that’s the point. Technology as always is embedded into the social practice. So starting with other reasons for—but without that this movement would have been crashed again. And for me, the most important thing in Egypt is the comparison between how the 2008 attempt particularly in the working class city, northern of Cairo was crushed with thousands of people killed. And the same people who survived that created the April 6th movement that then using Tunisia as the trigger, the same people started another kind of movement on the internet in January 2011 and it worked, you see. So therefore, I think at this point, you cannot imagine social movement or nonprofit organizations, or advocacy groups, or the Tea Party for that matter, without the internet had the implications of the internet. But the internet has implications. It needs interactivity. It needs horizontality.

You know, when politicians decided that “Oh, sure, we forgot the internet” and Obama were the first one in the world who really understood what the potential of the internet and that was decisive for the financier of the campaign, from the organizer of the campaign, we know that. Now all politicians want to do the same. How? The magic potion. If you have a good website, a good internet, in other words, and we win. Well, internet in one word, the cultural definition of internet is one word, autonomy.

Internet is the technology of autonomy. If you are not ready to give autonomy to the movement behind you, you better don’t try the internet because you may have a problem. And because if people really take seriously their autonomy and have the technological tools to be, they will not need you. So—and now Obama continues with his scenes about the internet but it doesn’t work in the same way, right, because people autonomously decided otherwise.



picture credits: photo by jjn1, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0),,

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Transcript partially based on the raw transcript available at