His spiritual father and teacher, the French sociologist Alain Touraine, has just passed away. And with a tribute to him we begin the interview with Manuel Castells (Hellín, 1942), which he has just published Testimony. living history (Publishing Alliance). In it he recounts how Daniel Cohn-Bendit told Touraine, in the midst of the revolt of May 68: “For reformists like you to succeed, revolutionaries like us must attempt failed revolutions.” Castells, who was the leader of that revolution, has been close to many others and to innumerable social movements, be it in Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, in the movement of the indignant in Spain, Occupy Wall Street in the United States or at the dawn of the feminist revolts in Iran against the use of the chador. Or advising the Russian democratic movement in the Gorbachev period or China.
He dreamed of a democratic Russia. But the KGB seized power, invaded the Ukraine, and brought the war back to Europe. When and how do you think it will end?
When they get tired of uselessly killing each other. And it will end with a negotiation, as all wars end.
Peace by territories?
Well, yes, peace first and then the territories. I see the solution of the Korean peninsula, where they are at war but with an armistice since 1953. I don’t see another solution in the short term. In addition, a very serious mistake is being made, from the Western point of view, which is to try to put China in the same bag, being considered by NATO as a strategic enemy. China supports Russia, but only on certain things. Do not consolidate that alliance by putting them in the same bag.
The fight with China
“China is not pushed. I don’t think there will be a war with the United States. It is neither interested nor convenient for Beijing ”
China does not like instability…
No, China wants to do business. It wants stability, a basis for doing business, and time to be the world’s leading economic and technological power.
Its relationship with China is old…
Yes. I visited it in 1983 and then, starting in 1987, when the Council of State asked me and a Stanford colleague to develop a new international economic and technological policy. I ended my relationship with the Chinese government with the Tiananmen massacre. I came back in 2000, but through universities, and I’ve been with your big tech companies, like Huawei and Tencent. I also have a vision of its civil and industrial society, more than the political part itself. If we manage to articulate China productively without questioning its political system, it will open up, let’s not push it. China is not pushed. China is not going to hand world hegemony to the United States and NATO on a platter by letting Putin fall.
Do you think that the confrontation between the United States and China can lead to a war?
A conflict. No no. China is not interested, China is not in the best interest of it. And so far the ones that have egged on China are the United States.
Taiwan was calm. And suddenly, Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, to retire with glory, is going to recognize the regime de facto. Taiwan, which had never been recognized. China maintains that in the long run Taiwan is China. And it turns out that the founding party of Taiwan, the Kuomintang, which is still the second by a few votes with the independence party, says the same thing. He says the same thing, but he says let’s see how we articulate, they want to be part of the great Chinese nation. Second, the largest investor in southern China, of foreign capital, is Taiwan. In other words, Taiwan is already so imbricated in China that it is not worth it for the Chinese to put up the Chinese flag as long as they are not provoked.
Are the Chinese China’s weakness? They trust the government more than their fellow citizens…
Well, they trust their family above all, that’s the only thing. Thinking quickly I would say yes. The Government has an approval rating above 60%. Because? Because there are many who are oppressed by local bosses, by mafias and by a very savage Chinese capitalism in which unions exist to defend the company. That is China’s big problem. Manufacturing capacity is leading more and more to social explosions linked, on the other hand, to urban social explosions, because they are completely changing cities and driving people out of their homes and from their agricultural lands on which the cities are sprawling. That is a powder keg. The other is technological innovation: there are engineers who really stand out, they emigrate.
Russia and Europe
“The invasion of Ukraine has handed over the EU to NATO, which is now more important than European integration”
Meanwhile, Europe, touched…
Security and fear of Russia are being prioritized, so the European Union falls under NATO. Today NATO is much more important for European integration than the European Union. Much more. And security ultimately is military. If stability is not reached, I am not saying peace, but lasting stability with Russia, Europe and all the big projects will be conditioned by this. Today, the EU is handed over to NATO.
And now it turns out that artificial intelligence arrives. And its promoters ask governments to please regulate them…
Well, there is an unlimited hard face, because they know that there are going to be many, many legal problems. At the same time, the capacity for innovation that this represents they are not going to stop and develop, they are developing it, because it is a huge field of technology and business and they are enthusiastic about their own technological marvels. That is very clear. But since there is going to be a very strong one, they are saying no, regulate us if you can. They are not going to stop innovation.
How are they going to set it up?
There is now a universal reaction to ChatGPT… And we are not thinking about the important things. The first is privacy. With artificial intelligence and good databases, algorithms control us if they want, they not only know everything about all of us, but they can also project what we are going to do, following development patterns. In other words, the big digital brother is there. Now yes. Before it was more of a fear. Artificial intelligence invades everything, knows everything, controls everything, and people, without knowing exactly, but are reacting.
How do you imagine the future?
At this time, I would say that the world has entered a phase with no future. That is to say, there can be many futures at the individual level, but nothing is foreseeable, because we are oscillating, now seriously, scientifically, between the extinction of habitability on the planet, not of the planet, but our ability to live it, the moral disintegration and social in much of the world, the growing hostility between human groups, racism, xenophobia. Hate. I hate, exactly, the hatred of the other. Fear and hate. And with little hope, because common projects are breaking down.