Historia versus Economía

Un académico contra el imperialismo económico

ConsensoEconomía neoclásicaEpistemologíaIntegridad

Have Spanish scholars failed?

I post here the conclusions of my last paper Neglecting the 19th century. Democracy, the consensus trap and modernization theory in Spain, published by History of the Human Scienceshttp://hhs.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/04/20/0952695115579588.abstract

Ideally, a deadlock should not exist within academic debates, because an open debate has to generate controversy in order to encourage research into the lack of supporting evidence for or the inconsistency of theoretical explanations. Controversy rather than competence for tenure should drive research. However, political institutions prefer consensus to controversy and when fields of knowledge are related to political activity it is difficult to keep debates fair and rational.

In theory, independence should be the hallmark of scholarly activity. Our work has to be free of partisanship, although political parties and the media provide a platform to draw the attention of the public and its academic consequences. The dilemma does not have an easy solution. A partial solution may be to express our moral and intellectual motivations openly. Although this proposal may sound simple, the fact is that when accepting that such motivations exist, we change our aims of analysis and discussion and, at the same time, create questions about our ability to reach the ideal of scientific neutrality. Obviously, abandoning scientific neutrality can open the gates to epistemological anarchism, but, in the end, the scientific community should operate as a model for public debate. Since academic authority should come from the robustness of debate, openness and leverage are necessary. Casting doubt over theories is the best way to test them, and whether such theories are finally universally accepted or not will result from their resistance to criticism.

Likewise, putting aside sterile objectivity would lead to a set of civic values shared by the scholarly community: an extremely difficult task that is necessary to confront the traumatic past in order to explain the civic responsibilities demanded by democratic systems. Consequently, a respectful and open academic controversy is fundamental to the development of democratic societies. We must be more interested in the exchange of ideas and arguments than in the increased production of papers or in citation index rates.

In conclusion, it is likely that the present economic and institutional crisis in Spain is due to the fact that both the public and scholars have neglected their duties. Our national success was, according to Modernization Theory, the Spanish Transition and society was possibly overwhelmed by the self-righteousness of political parties that praised themselves for leading the country to advanced democracy. The Spaniards, as modern democrats, were free of the threats of populism and corruption, because the right approach of the social sciences was to reduce the citizen to the category of consumer.

It is also likely that social scientists who have received more institutional and public attention were the most confident about the virtues of our political framework and such confidence might not help to detect and understand weaknesses in the framework. In order to maintain the narrative of the Spanish Transition, Modernization Theory has provided the key tools with which to block public debate about the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War. As a result, MT is popular among and respected by Spanish academics, despite having been subject to harsh criticism during the last 50 years. However, the institutional and economic crisis has interrupted this narrative of success and revealed the political aims of hegemonic paradigms such as MT. If economic prosperity does not guarantee a foolproof democracy, MT is mere wishful thinking.


Carles Sirera Miralles (València, 1981) is a Spanish historian and adjunct professor in the University of Valencia. His principal lines of research focused on the problems of the democratization in Europe, especially during the end of Nineteenth Century and the beginnings of the Twentieth Century. As social historian, he has wrote about the sports and sociability and his thesis, Un título para las clases medias, is one of the most completed and relevant studies on the subject of the secondary school in Spain. His intellectual influences are the Alltagsgeschichte school, Norbert Elias, Fritz K. Ringer and all historians who, although the limitations of our discipline, think that is possible reach some kind of valid, useful and interesting knowledge.