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Contemporary Republicanism in Spain: Dialogues with Liberalism and the Left

  • Author(s): Cella, Paul
  • Advisor(s): Zubiaurre, María Teresa de
  • et al.

This dissertation examines the work of three Spanish essayists, Salvador Giner, Helena Béjar, and Antoni Domènech, who defend republicanism, as opposed to liberalism or diverse left-wing alternatives, as the best current theory for articulating a progressive political vision. It argues that these essayists fruitfully complicate the “revival” of republican thought that began in Anglo-American academia in the late-twentieth century (and that is represented by J. G. A. Pocock, Quentin Skinner, and Philip Pettit) by turning the opposition between republicanism and (a relatively centrist) liberalism that is typical of the revival’s mainstream into a more dynamic discussion between republicanism, liberalism, and broadly left-wing positions, including various forms of Marxism, left-libertarianism and anti-statism, and post-modernism. Work that is being done in Spain yields a more nuanced definition of republicanism by giving reasons to prefer republicanism to political philosophies that raise different questions than liberalism does, and that challenge republicanism in ways that liberalism does not. Marxism is most appropriately met not through a discussion of liberty (liberal or republican?), but of how to explain social inequality and change (in conversation with Marxism, Giner and Béjar doubt that there is still a privileged revolutionary agent, like Marx’s proletariat); postmodern skepticism centers debates on the reliability of human reason, a subject about which liberals and republicans broadly agree and so rarely discuss (Domènech argues that it is important, pace postmodern relativists, that we be able confidently to denounce sources of social ills, and to do so on epistemologically secure ground); and anti-state theories invite principled defenses of the state form, which—perhaps because states are not in principle questioned by liberalism—are virtually absent from current republicanism (Giner defends the state because it can create conditions in which the typically diverse populations of modern Western countries can exchange conflicting ideas as civic and political equals). Spanish contributions to republicanism have been largely and unjustifiably overlooked. This dissertation partially remedies this oversight and calls for the work of Giner, Béjar, and Domènech to figure more prominently in political theoretical debates.

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