The voice of society in the face of the crisis (June 2017)

Civil Society in a broad sense

Funcas has just published, as an electronic book, The voice of society in the face of the crisis, by Víctor Pérez-Díaz, President of Analistas Socio-Políticos, Research Center. 

The book is part of the project "Challenges to democracy and public space in Spain and Europe in the current crisis", sponsored by Funcas. It is the English version of La voz de la sociedad ante la crisis.

The book is mainly based on the detailed analysis of a representative survey of the Spanish public carried out in May 2016. The analysis takes on the perspective of an interpretive social science, which crucially emphasizes the meaning of action for the actors themselves, understood in its context. The strength of the argument depends on the plausibility of the reconstruction of that action and the situation to which it responds. The book's perspective is attentive to the potential and the cognitive and moral limits of the actors.

The work presents the voice of the Spanish public, recorded as answers to a questionnaire, interlacing the literalness of the questions, the answers and the author’s comments. It is a reconstruction of the voice of the citizenry aimed at understanding what it tells us in terms of what it may mean, its congruence and its context. That voice comes to be fairly coherent and in correspondence with reality, although, obviously, coherence and correspondence are not full, because they cannot be. The book's reconstruction of that voice highlights the core of common sense and decency (moral sense) of most of the common people in Spain, placed in the current crisis situation.

Through the survey, the public sends out four main messages.

  • First, their good sense is reflected in the acceptance of the course that the Spaniards have been following for some time. The course marked by Europe, with its institutional framework of “civil society” (democracy, markets, social pluralism). As something not imposed, but assumed.
  • Second, in their positions on certain institutions and public policies, a large majority lies in a zone of encounter between liberalism and social-democracy: an area of ​​moderation, which underlies moral sentiments of some depth. Not of conservation of the statu quo, but of commitment to a process of more or less profound adjustments and continuous reforms.
  • Third, in the imaginary of the Spaniards, the ship that follows the course in question and that defines the main of the public policies, is the Spanish political community. With reservations about its effectiveness in dealing with the crisis, it is considered that its ability to solve problems, to represent the interests and opinions of citizens, to maintain national unity, will not be reduced to the benefit of either a European government or the governments of autonomous regions lightly connected to the whole of Spain.
  • Fourth, the response to the challenges of the crisis begins with a commitment to the recreation or continuous reconstruction of a Spanish political community with a “European course”, in which the systematic demand for civilized forms of politics is central. 

However, the Spanish society’s ability to transform these messages into effective political influence is weak, since its civic drive is insufficient. To explain this insufficiency, the book focuses on three factors: the ambivalence of society towards the political class; the weakness of their historical and economic knowledge, among others; and its relative lack of trust in itself.

The text aims at supporting the process of building a reasonable and reconciled political community, with the protagonism of a society with a greater civic impulse, oriented towards a different vision of politics, a different way of doing and debating it.


This is the summary of the book:

I. The voice of the audience in public space in uncertain times, and some methodological observations

II. Messages: embedded in a moving world with a course; and this world and this course are European

III. Messages of support for substantive public policies from the European politeias: relative moderation in the management of economic and social problems

IV. Messages: the Spanish political community as the main frame of reference in the political life of the Spanish

V. Messages about the forms of politics: the civil forms of citizens and the bellicose forms of politicians

VI. Culture: ambiguity in political disaffection, the ambivalence of society towards the political class

VII. Culture and reflexivity: limited cultural resources in knowledge and narratives

VIII. Culture: self-esteem or ambivalence toward oneself, and the potential and limits of civic commitment

IX. Conclusion: an open and dramatic process


Bibliographical references