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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Is Spain a Statist Society? A Research Perspective on Organizations, Reflexivity and Collective Action


What follows is a summary of the subject and the main assumptions of the book we are writing on voluntary organizations and social movements, which is grounded in my research on non-profit voluntary organizations. It questions the traditional characterization of Spain as a ‘statist society,’ in which the relevance of these organizations is very weak since the citizenry has its expectations focused on the State for solving its problems and does not participate in these kind of groups (Linz 1984; Wert 1996). While relevant surveys continue to hold this assumption, I claim that there has been a change in this subject, which is already promoting interesting developments in public controversies about relevant political issues concerning social justice, language use in education, and the political system of Spain. These changes are manifest in two different kinds of data that shed light on the issue of citizens’ participation in voluntary organizations.

I claim that there is a change in the public image of voluntary organizations for an increasing sector of the population, which accounts for a high dynamism and mobilization potential of the Spanish society at present and points to the emergence of a civic culture that plays a fundamental role in the social modernization of the country and was not present at the beginning of the political transition. This culture is not merely the result of time and socialization practices at school, but is being propelled by the social controversies and the mobilizations promoted by certain organizations which have acquired an increasing definitional power on important public issues. They are related to a new civic movement that is becoming a relevant collective actor in this process of social and political modernization.

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