Collection Social Divides. An Introduction

Collection Social Divides. An Introduction

Jordi Sevilla, economist

We are living in an era of confrontation. A period in which the prevailing tones are “hate speeches that try to arouse not empathy, but antipathy; not belonging, but division; not continuity, but disruption”. An era of “chaos and clashes that leave little space for democratic deliberation, collective narratives or even, simply, the word”. A historic point in time that makes “strategic use of lies” and enforces “a head-on combat that puts an end to the field of the political and the diversity of society” (Christian Salmon).
Key points
  • 1
       A wave of citizen fury is sweeping the world, with social mobilisations in France, Hong Kong, Chile, Algeria, India… a wave fuelled by the pandemic, even though the contents of the banners have changed. After the West’s defeat in Afghanistan, two things remain clear: there is no international order, and social liberal democracy is in retreat the world over. The Arab Spring, movements protesting over the 2008 global crisis, the Me Too movement, those advocating urgently fighting against climate change, or science denialists or the assault on the United States Capitol are all snapshots of these breaks with former social and political consensuses.
  • 2
       We are living through an era of offended identities that are fragmenting democratic fraternity. In the absence of a shared goal that mobilises people and offers hope, this climate of crossed offences makes building something in common non-viable, because that aspiration has been removed from the equation with the revering of the banal and the ephemeral, replicated ad infinitum by the social media networks.
  • 3
       After an initial moment in which the pandemic united us in incredulity and fear of the unknown, divisions quickly appeared between those who clapped for healthcare workers and those who banged pots and pans to protest against the government's management of the pandemic.
  • 4
       We have seen more protests in the first world against the restrictions set up to control the virus than protests in the third world demanding vaccines or better healthcare. And, everywhere, the amalgam of deniers and anti-vaxxers furiously taking to the streets.
  • 5
       Following the last Great Recession, and the policies that were implemented, many citizens found themselves severely affected by the crisis, which left sudden deep wounds. Furthermore, when the citizens of developed countries, particularly the Europeans – looked to their governments seeking protection, they found their governments turning their backs on them, bound head and toe by international commitments that were limiting their margins for manoeuvre and pushing them to introduce cuts and austerity.
  • 6
       All of this left behind it a trail of inequality and a feeling of discontent and social injustice. And this is now being taken advantage of by populism and extreme ideologies, fuelled by unfulfilled promises, by an economic recovery that is not reaching everyone equally, by citizen dissatisfaction in the face of the growing polarisation of income and wealth, by the fear of those who feel that their future has been stolen and by the typically human need to find the guilty parties. The pandemic has aggravated this climate of discontent and unrest.
  • 7
       We are faced with a series of uneven and disarticulated revolts against “what I don’t like”, whose origins lie in a collective that feels badly treated, attacked, or not taken into consideration (which leads us to the divide concept) by the public powers that be. Furthermore, the different divides that exist or have been created are sustained by what differentiates us; the adversary becomes the enemy, negotiation becomes claudication and agreement becomes surrender.
  • 8
       The aim of the study that we are introducing here is to help understand the causes of these worrying social phenomena and try to propose solutions. We are referring, in particular, to the divides that are threatening social cohesion and damaging the democratic coexistence between citizens who share the same formal rights. Fractures, in short, that prevent people from fully developing their life projects in freedom.

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Jordi Sevilla , economist

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