The majority of citizens in the world today do not trust their political representatives, the mainstream political parties, the established political institutions or their governments. This widespread crisis of legitimacy underlies a series of dramatic changes that have taken place in recent times in the global political landscape, such as the unexpected election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the demise of traditional political parties and the election of a political outsider in France, the transformation of the political system in Spain (including the secessionist movement in Catalonia), the rise of the extreme right in Europe and the nationalist challenges that threaten the European Union.
In this short but wide-ranging book Manuel Castells analyses each of these processes and examines some of the potential causes of people’s disaffection towards the institutions of liberal democracy, including the effects of globalization, the impact of media politics and the internet, the increasing corruption of politicians, the insulation of a professional political class from civil society and the critique of the existing order by new social movements. He also examines the impact of global terrorism and war on the xenophobia and racism that are fuelling the surge of extremism among a growing proportion of the population. The fact that many of these trends are present in very different contexts suggests that we are witnessing a deep-seated crisis of the model of democracy that has been the cornerstone of stability and civility in the last half century.