A Political Philosophy in Public Life: Civic Republicanism in Zapatero's Spainby Jose Luis Marti, Philip Pettit
This book examines an unlikely development in modern political philosophy: the adoption by a major national government of the ideas of a living political theorist. When José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero became Spain's opposition leader in 2000, he pledged that if his socialist party won power he would govern Spain in accordance with the principles laid
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This book examines an unlikely development in modern political philosophy: the adoption by a major national government of the ideas of a living political theorist. When José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero became Spain's opposition leader in 2000, he pledged that if his socialist party won power he would govern Spain in accordance with the principles laid out in Philip Pettit's 1997 book Republicanism, which presented, as an alternative to liberalism and communitarianism, a theory of freedom and government based on the idea of nondomination. When Zapatero was elected President in 2004, he invited Pettit to Spain to give a major speech about his ideas. Zapatero also invited Pettit to monitor Spanish politics and deliver a kind of report card before the next election. Pettit did so, returning to Spain in 2007 to make a presentation in which he gave Zapatero's government a qualified thumbs-up for promoting republican ideals.
In this book, Pettit and José Luis Martí provide the historical background to these unusual events, explain the principles of civic republicanism in accessible terms, present Pettit's report and his response to some of its critics, and include an extensive interview with Zapatero himself. In addition, the authors discuss what is required of a political philosophy if it is to play the sort of public role that civic republicanism has been playing in Spain.
An important account of a rare and remarkable encounter between contemporary political philosophy and real-world politics, this is also a significant work of political philosophy in its own right.
"This fascinating book dedicates itself to this unique exchange between the worlds of practical governance and political theory."Choice
"[W]e can thank Marti and Pettit for providing compelling evidence that contemporary political philosophy is as capable of inspiring those who are active in the public square as it is of those gathered around seminar tables."Richard Dagger, Ethics
"This work is a success at what it intends to doto recount a compelling event in the history of political theory and practice, to introduce a non-professional audience to republican thought, and to motivate citizens, Spanish or otherwise, to ask what can be done to make our own political practice more just."Phillip Deen, Philosophy in Review
"The book is lucid, clearly accessible to the general public, well written, and full of insights that are useful both to academic and nonacademic readers. It is a must read for those who are interested in how a political philosophy can enter into dialogue with a real-world experience in politics; Pettit and Marti have been protagonists of a unique experience, and it is a privilege for us readers to have the opportunity to learn about this experience directly from them."Roberto Gargarella, Perspectives on Politics
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A Political Philosophy in Public LifeCivic Republicanism in Zapatero's Spain
By José Luis Martí Philip Pettit
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2010 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Spanish Context
José Luis Martí
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, prime minister of Spain, has affirmed on several occasions that he endorses and is inspired by the political philosophy of civic republicanism, and specifically by the work of Philip Pettit. As Zapatero has stated: "this modern political philosophy called republicanism ... is very important nourishment to what we want for our country" (Prego 2001, 166). Consequently, both civic republicanism and Pettit's name have been present in the Spanish media and debates in recent years, being widely and critically discussed by both the Left and the Right. José Andrés Torres Mora, one of Zapatero's closest advisers, who is also a sociologist and deputy in the Spanish Congress, describes Pettit's influence in these terms: "Philip Pettit provided us with the appropriate grammar to furnish our political intuitions, to express the kind of proposals and dreams we had in mind for Spain. Pettit's republicanism has been our north star" (Torres Mora 2008).
This is the first time in recent history, to my knowledge, that any political leader has unambiguously embraced civic republicanism. Some obvious questions raised then are: Why did Zapatero commit himself to such a political philosophy just after his 2000 election as Secretary General of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or PSOE)? Why did Zapatero feel the need to engage a concrete political philosophy? And why has Pettit's theory been considered "important nourishment," "the appropriate grammar," and the "north star" for Zapatero's policies in Spain? These are some of the questions I am going to address in the present chapter, as I rehearse the main events in the history of Zapatero's Spain relative to his endorsement of such a political philosophy. The chapter will set the scene for the rest of the book, particularly for chapters 3 and 4.
Zapatero's commitment might be surprising to many people-as surprising as it was in Spain in 2000. Yet it made sense in the context of the new millennium. After three decades of neoliberal dominance and the random mixing of neoliberal ideas with more traditional social democratic commitments, as in the case of Tony Blair's Third Way, social democracy was faced with an ideological crisis. In this impoverished context, civic republicanism (or civicism, as Pettit has also called it) has obvious attractions as a way of grounding social democracy. It is based on the value of freedom, offering a normative philosophy that challenges neoliberalism or libertarianism in its own preferred terms. In endorsing civic republicanism, Zapatero opposed libertarianism and rightwing liberalism more generally, as well as the Third Way and other philosophical ways of rethinking social democracy. He opted for a modest but powerful new foundation for the Left.
In what follows I shall speak frequently of the civic republican ideal of freedom as nondomination. The notion is fully explained in chapter 2, but it may be useful to offer a brief characterization here. Freedom as nondomination is contrasted, in Pettit's work, with freedom as noninterference. Two points explain the contrast. First, you may enjoy freedom as nondomination and yet suffer some interference, such as the interference of coercive law. That sort of interference will not reduce your freedom to the extent that the law is under your control as a member of the citizenry and does not impose an alien will: it is nonarbitrary, to use a favorite republican phrase. But, as you may suffer interference without being dominated so, to go to the second point of contrast, you may be dominated-you may be subject to the will of others-without suffering any actual interference. This will happen to the extent that others can impose their will, should they take against your pattern of choice, but do not do so because of being content with your choices. What you choose in such a situation, you choose by their leave. It may be sheer luck that you do not attract their interference, and that you enjoy their leave to choose as you do, or it may be the product of a self-censoring strategy; you may shape your choices so as to keep them sweet.
Subjection to the arbitrary will of others is exemplified in Roman tradition by the position of the servant or servus in relation to the master or dominus; hence the talk of freedom as nondomination. The ideal of freedom as nondomination raises a dual challenge for the state. The state should provide protection against the private forms of domination that people may suffer as a result of disadvantage in any resources, legal, educational, financial, contractual, or cultural. Yet at the same time the state should be nondominating in how it relates to its people, giving them constitutionally and democratically mediated control over the policies and initiatives it adopts. It will have to interfere in their economic and other affairs in order to provide protection against domination, but the interference should be subject to popular control in a way that makes it nonarbitrary.
This ideal had strong appeal for Mr. Zapatero, as the interview in chapter 4 makes clear. It means that freedom is deeply connected with equality on the one hand, and with democracy on the other. As we shall see, Mr. Zapatero makes frequent reference to this ideal of freedom, presenting it not as something that thrives in the absence of government, but as an ideal that requires both the engagement of government in people's lives, and people's active contestation and vigilance. One particular aspect of the civic republican tradition that obviously caught Mr. Zapatero's attention was the eyeball test to which Pettit had drawn attention in his book (1997, 166; see also chapter 2 in this volume). According to this test you enjoy freedom in relation to others-to a particular other or to others as represented in a group or in a government-only insofar as you can look them in the eye, without fear or deference, with a shared consciousness of this equal status. You can command the respect of others and enjoy the dignity of an equal among equals.
Spain has had two different socialist prime ministers in its recent democratic history: Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, both from the Partido Socialista Obrero Español. Felipe González led the country for almost fourteen years, from 1982 to 1996, following a classic social democratic ideology, at least during his first three terms. His popularity and charisma made it possible for him to win four consecutive elections. Among his achievements, the most noteworthy are the consolidation of democracy, his contribution to the development of a nascent welfare state in Spain, the modernization of the country, and Spain's entry to the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1986 and to NATO in 1988. His excellent connections with European leaders, especially with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the President of the French Republic François Mitterrand, aided in positioning Spain on the international forefront, making it more respected and better known around the world. But not all was well and good. A number of serious grievances contributed to an unpleasant and bitter end to González' political life. There was harsh opposition from Spanish labor unions, giving rise to several general strikes, some serious episodes of institutional corruption which came to light mainly during his last term, a public charge of collusion or even complicity with state terrorism directed mainly against the ETA (the Basque terrorist group), and a highly controversial privatization of the major public industrial and energy companies.
In 1996, in his fifth election since he was elected in 1982 (his seventh election in total), González was defeated by José María Aznar, who had brought new life to the Partido Popular (PP), the main center-right party in Spain. However, because González still maintained a certain degree of popularity, the PP was able to capture only 39% of the votes, just one point ahead of the PSOE, giving Aznar, once elected, a tiny majority in the Congress of Deputies. This obliged him to negotiate in order to reach agreements with other parliamentary groups, mainly the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties, to be elected as prime minister and to pass the government's legislative initiatives. This situation probably explains why Aznar's first term was a period of slight reform and smooth transition. But Aznar led the PP to a second and much greater victory in 2000, winning 44% of the votes, ten points ahead of the PSOE, and obtaining an (absolute) majority of deputies. This strengthened his government and allowed him to rule freely and implement his agenda.
Helped by the creation of the main right-wing think tank in Spain, FAES, the PP in the Aznar era held two basic ideological allegiances: libertarianism and Catholic conservatism. On the one hand, Aznar openly admired the way Ronald Reagan's and Margaret Thatcher's governments had applied neoliberal or libertarian ideas, deregulating markets and abstaining from intervention in a manner favored by the right-wing liberals in his party. On the other hand, Aznar maintained strong ties to conservative Spanish circles and identified with the American neoconservative movement connected with George W. Bush; indeed he became one of Bush's closest international friends and allies. As I will explain later, one of Aznar's most contested political decisions during his second term was to engage Spain in the second war in Iraq. The most applauded achievements were the good macroeconomic indicators-a much lower unemployment rate, a zero budget deficit, very low inflation-the privatization of the last large state-owned companies, and the introduction of several tax cuts.
All this background is relevant because, as I will explain soon, one of Zapatero's first priorities was to differentiate himself from both González and Aznar. The PSOE was suffering a serious crisis in the post-González years, basically due to a lack of clear and unitary leadership. There were several internal divisions in the party that finally crystallized after the PSOE's huge electoral defeat on March 12, 2000. A few months later, at the thirty-fifth PSOE conference, the party had to elect a new secretary general, and there was a common perception that a complete renewal was required. Different groups in the party presented their own candidates: namely, José Bono, representing the traditional aparato still influenced by González; Matilde Fernández, representing the reformista sector; Rosa Díez, then a deputy in the European Parliament and a very well-known Basque politician; and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, supported by a recently constituted minority group "Nueva Vía" ("New Way"), formed by young members of the PSOE who had not taken part in any of González' governments. Zapatero had been a deputy in congress since 1989-when he was only 26-and had been very active there, but he was practically unknown at that time to Spaniards, and even to his own party. Despite his outsider status in the race, however, he won the election.
Once elected as secretary general on July 23, 2000, Zapatero gave his first address to the party conference, expressing some hopeful substantive commitments and previewing his personal style; both things would characterize his political performance later. For this reason, the speech deserves some attention here. The substantive commitments endorsed can be reduced to the values of freedom and democracy, and they were complemented by a personal style that emphasized the virtues of dialogue and a "good mood or disposition." But perhaps the most important idea underlying the whole address was the necessity of change: change for the party itself and change for Spanish society as a whole. Zapatero, as the new socialist leader, needed to differentiate himself from González and from an administration that had left a legacy of corruption scandals, suspicions of connivance with state terrorism, high unemployment rates, and economic crisis.
In this context Zapatero flew solo: "beyond today, we have a lot of things to do, a lot of things to live. The best part of our lives is not in our backpack, in our past; the best day in our lives is still to come" (Rodríguez Zapatero 2000). There was to be change, then, but not abrupt and disruptive change: "you have clearly demanded a change and I am decisively committing myself to make it possible. But don't forget, don't ever forget, that it must always be a tempered change" (Rodríguez Zapatero 2000).
The two substantive fundamental values expressed in this speech were participatory, deliberative democracy and freedom, and in his view they were related to each other as well as to solidarity. This meant a departure from the usual ideological discourse in González' PSOE, which had focused more centrally on equality. The new departure was present in Zapatero's view, even before he had explicitly endorsed civic republicanism:
We are going to deepen democracy: more participation, more transparency, but also more responsibility because democracy is precisely the free reflection of the people's will.... We want, therefore, an active and cohesive democracy ... a democracy that has recovered the value of the citizenry and strengthens the commitment of all. This is what defines us [the socialists], this is what distinguishes us: our passion for solidarity and the realization of freedoms. (Rodríguez Zapatero 2000)
The "value of the citizenry" and the ideals of "political participation" and "responsibility," according to Zapatero, were intertwined with the value of dialogue and deliberation, as they were with the ideal of freedom: "this is the socialist tradition, and even the socialist instinct: to fix problems through discussion of ideas, and then, at the end, enjoy freedoms" (Rodríguez Zapatero 2000). The emphasis on political dialogue was expressive of a more general but characteristic style, associated with attitudes of respect and tolerance. The essence of this style can be found in the popular motto Zapatero constantly applied to himself for many years when confronting the Right: el talante (the good mood or disposition). In this vein, he proposed that his opposition to Aznar's government was to be "loyal, constructive and useful," a tempered and respectful style in stark contrast to the rude and, at times, somewhat harsh style of Aznar and of many members of Aznar's government; a new style ultimately characterized by what has been called his "endemic optimism" and a promise of hope.
Only four years after the electoral defeat of Felipe González, in the midst of a deep crisis in his own party, and immediately after Aznar's huge electoral victory, Zapatero sought in these statements to differentiate himself from both González' legacy and Aznar's style. He proposed a tempered change, based on solid new substantive ideas of freedom and democracy in order to renovate and modernize Spanish social democracy, and a new talante for respectful dialogue and democratic deliberation. To finish this quick overview of the political background surrounding Zapatero's endorsement of civic republicanism, let me now turn briefly to the general ideological moment of the Left in Europe.
European social democracy, based on a Keynesian welfarist view and virtually hegemonic since the end of the Second World War, was perceived as being in crisis or at least as requiring a deep renewal, as was Spanish social democracy, which traditionally mirrored the European model. Among the factors contributing to the widespread perception of failure of this model, we find the great influence of Ronald Reagan's and Margaret Thatcher's neoliberalism during the 1980s, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain at the end of that decade, along with the subsequent loss of an ideological point of reference, and the economic crisis of welfare states in Europe at the beginning of the 1990s. This perception was so extensive that Margaret Thatcher coined a famous phrase, which became her mantra, the acronym for which was TINA: "There is no alternative." She maintained that whatever the problems and imperfections of the free market and the state's abstention from intervention, there was no alternative to neoliberalism or libertarianism: no alternative, in effect, to widespread deregulation and the minimal state. This simple yet influential idea undermined the ideological basis of the welfare state and offered a powerful conservative philosophy that characterized most rightwing governments in Europe in the early 1990s and influenced many of their left-wing opponents; it was a philosophy associated with economists and thinkers such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Robert Nozick.
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What People are Saying About This
Casiano Hacker-Cordon, Centro de Estudios Politicos y Constitucionales, Madrid
Robert B. Talisse, Vanderbilt University
Meet the Author
Jose Luis Marti is associate professor of law at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Philip Pettit is the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University. His books include Republicanism, A Theory of Freedom, and Made with Words (Princeton).
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