intellectual life

intellectual life
   Spain in the 1920s and 1930s displayed considerable intellectual vitality, not only because of the presence of an exceptionally gifted generation of writers and artists (such as Rafael Alberti, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Federico García Lorca and Jorge Guillén), but also because of the revitalization of critical enquiry stimulated by the work of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, whose editorship of the Library of Twentieth-Century Ideas helped to familiarize the reading public with some of the main currents of European thought.
   This development was, however, truncated by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936. Given that the main university cities of Madrid and Barcelona remained in Republican hands, most of the leading intellectuals found themselves in Republican territory, and initially supported the elected government. Ortega was among those who signed a manifesto in favour of the Republic, as was the historian Ramon Menéndez Pidal. The atrocities carried out by Republican militias in the early days of the war, however, and the increasing influence of the communists in the government, alienated this support, and most of the leading intellectuals left Spain either during or at the end of the war, some not returning until many years later. The victorious Franco regime was deeply suspicious of intellectual activity, and strove to control intellectual and cultural life through a rigorous system of censorship, and by state and church tutelage of university education. According to the official ideology, the traditions of critical enquiry deriving from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were subversive and anti-Spanish. The founding charter of the institution set up to co-ordinate and oversee research in post-Civil War Spain, the CSIC, stated as its purpose "the restoration of the classic and Christian unity of the sciences, which was destroyed in the eighteenth century". Many of those intellectuals who had survived the war and remained in Spain found the climate uncongenial, and eventually joined their colleagues in exile, for instance, Manuel Tuñón de Lara. Others who grew up in Franco's Spain, such as Juan Goytisolo, found that by the mid-1950s they needed to breathe the freer air of other countries.
   The intellectuals who remained can be grouped into three categories. In the first place, there were those who consciously and deliberately applied their energies to the difficult and ultimately ineffective enterprise of providing a theoretical framework for the Francoist system, notably José María de Areilza, José Luis Arrese y Magra, Rafael Calvo Serer, Dionisio Ridruejo and, above all, Eugeni D'Ors. Many of these became disillusioned and either moved towards opposition (Ridruejo as early as 1940), or were driven into opposition by incurring Franco's disfavour (Calvo Serer). With the exception of D'Ors, all the above functioned primarily in the political arena, but bridges between politics and academia were provided by figures like the Benedictine monk, Justo Pérez de Urbel, who as well as being a very distinguished medieval historian was a member of the Francoist Cortes (see also parliament), adviser to the Women's Section of the National Movement, and the first Abbot of the Valley of the Fallen, the monument to the (Nationalist) dead of the Civil War, constructed by the labour of Republican prisoners.
   The second category includes conservative academics such as Ricardo del Arco, José Antonio Maravall and Pedro Laín Entralgo, who, while not systematically propagandizing on behalf of the regime, generally shared its Castilian nationalist view of Spanish history (see also historiography), and were instinctively hostile to political radicalism of the left. Members of this group would have viewed themselves, not as the front line of defence of the regime, but as professional educators working within the only system available. Some, including Maravall and Laín Entralgo, were liberal Catholics who hoped for a gradual opening up of Francoism to modernizing tendencies, and became increasingly disillusioned at the continuing entrenchment of the regime.
   The third group were, broadly speaking, liberal Catholic dissidents, within the narrow field of manoeuvre that the climate of censorship and repression allowed to dissenting views. The fact that they were able to function at all was largely due to their courage and intellectual integrity, but also to the skill with which they could steer a careful course among the various reefs, and thereby preserve a measure of intellectual independence. An important contributory factor was the inefficient operation of the censorship, and its inconsistency in application, which often meant that work of a specialist or technical nature could be published. Philosophy in particular benefited from this, and José Luis L.Aranguren published in his Catolicismo y protestantismo como formas de existencia (Catholicism and Protestantism as Ways of Life) (1952) a collection of essays on Luther, Kierkegaard and Unamuno, as well as other essays on Marxism, all topics which would have been considered taboo in the 1940s. Julian Marías, a disciple of Ortega, continued to occupy his chair throughout the Franco period, and to develop Ortega's insights in his published writing. Enrique Tierno Galván, despite having fought on the Republican side during the Civil War, and having been interned after the war in a Francoist concentration camp, held a chair of Public Law in Murcia and subsequently in Salamanca, and published articles in the Revista de Estudios Políticos (Political Studies Review), the organ of the Instituto de Estudios Políticos (Political Studies Institute). In any case, it proved impossible in practice for the regime to exclude intellectual currents from abroad, or to interfere effectively with the network of international contacts characteristic of academic research. Besides, the increasing desire on the part of the authorities to present an acceptable face to the rest of the world helped to mitigate some of the potential rigours of censorship. Nevertheless, there was still a clear dividing-line between toleration of certain kinds of intellectual activity and continued suppression of any direct criticism of the regime, as Aranguren and Tierno Galván found to their cost in 1965 when they were sacked from their chairs for joining a student demonstration in favour of liberalizing the university system.
   The regime also proved unable to rely on the uncritical support of the Roman Catholic Church, which for most of the dictatorship had been one of the principal mechanisms of social and intellectual control. Though the official position remained that all teaching in educational establishments, including universities, had to conform to Catholic dogma, in practice the church, from about the mid-1950s, and, more particularly, the 1960s, outpaced the political institutions in its development towards more progressive and tolerant attitudes. The relative modernization of the church, especially after the Second Vatican Council (1962–5), undermined National Catholicism, distanced the church from Francoism, and provided intellectual and moral support for liberal Catholics such as Aranguren. The survival of intellectual dissent during the Franco regime ensured there was already a foundation on which to build when democracy was restored. Even before Franco's death, some exiled academics returned, and continued to exercise a positive influence in semi-retirement, for instance, Américo Castro. Others returned after 1975, and occupied university posts with success and distinction (Tuñón de Lara) or contributed to intellectual and cultural life through their writing (Francisco Ayala). The main element of continuity, however, was provided by the institutions which, despite state control, had enabled some modicum of independent intellectual life to subsist. In addition to figures like Aranguren, Marías and Tierno Galván, a younger generation trained during the dictatorship, including, among many others, Miguel Artola and Juan Pablo Fusi (history) Francisco Rico (literature), José Luis Abellán and Elias Díaz (history of philosophy), carried on the work of maintaining intellectual integrity and professionalism in the universities. The Law of University Reform of 1983 (LRU) finally freed the universities from state control, and provided greater security of tenure for academic staff. The CSIC has also developed well beyond the original intentions of its founders, and since 1987 has been the main body entrusted with the elaboration of the National Science Plan. Though the Royal Academies remain relatively conservative institutions, they retain a key role in fostering academic debate through their activities in organizing seminars, lectures and conferences, and in promoting publication.
   Perhaps the dominant element, however, in intellectual life since the mid-1970s has been the democratic transition itself, which has given rise to a spate of books and articles on the nature of Spanish society, Spanish identity, and the problems raised by these and related issues. The evolution of Spain into a quasi-federation of autonomous communities has changed the terms of social and political debate, much of which is now carried on, not in the institutions mentioned above, but in the press, particularly the quality press which has emerged since the early 1970s, represented by El País, El Mundo and Cambio 16. Though gross readership figures for newspapers are lower than those in France, Germany and Britain, it is likely that proportionately as many people read the quality press in Spain as in Britain (see also media). Readership of serious novels has increased dramatically since the mid-1980s. Even a challenging novelist like Juan Benet, who makes heavy demands on the reader, could command a print run of 25,000 copies, and the playwright Antonio Gala's first novel had a print run of 200,000 in 1990.
   All these developments are symptoms of the widening of access to education since 1970, the development of mass communications, and the burgeoning of literature and the arts, which have revitalized the intellectual climate and broken down some of the barriers between élite intellectual groups and an increasingly sophisticated public.
   Further reading
   - Aranguren, J.L.L. (1975) La cultura española y la cultura establecida, Madrid: Taurus (a stimulating study by one of the leading participants in the cultural and intellectual debate).
   - Díaz, E. Etica contra política: Los intelectuales y el poder, Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales (a fundamental analysis by an eminent historian of philosophy).
   —— (1992) Pensamiento español, 1939-73, Madrid: Tecnos (the second edition of an important study first published in 1974; still relevant).
   —— (1982) El exilio español en México, 1939-1982, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica (an important symposium by various authors, including historical articles and personal testimonies, as well as a biobibliographical section on Republican intellectuals in Mexico).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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