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José Luis Villacañas

A History of Power in Spain: Practices, Habits and Political Style URL:

Following the research of Gylles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Norbert Elias, Reinhardt Koselleck and Pierre Bourdieu, whose works allow us to develop the passionate conceptual enterprise of Max Weber, the history of power shows now new perspectives that claim for a new creative way of combining theory and research of references. Instead of focusing on the State's big adventures, we now pay attention to the elements that can be named "the material practices of power". These practices go beyond the emblematic and important events, and refer to those really defining the political subjects in their specific lives, including the expansive effects producing social capillarisation. These practices can be addressed from questions, originally posed by E. Levinas, which define the moral requirements to recognize the Other, the ruling source linking all political future that attempts escaping the master and slave dialectic.

This way, we have learned from Deleuze how to pay attention to the ways that spaces are occupied, while Foucault has taught us how to discover the structural devices pre-conditioning, directing, and ruling the specific social fights. Elias from his side showed interest in studying the social institutions like the Court. Those that organize the behavioral models and ritual shapes, those that also impose the basic features for prestige and recognition, and subsequently have a mimetic expansion across the social body. Bourdieu further developed these analyses proving how all these components end up producing human habits and styles that rule the psychological features with definitive sentimental aspects and the elaboration of modesty and shame, of security and fear, of expression and distinction. Finally, Koselleck deployed the history of power's inevitable plurality and the impossibility of clotting all history in co-active and total symbologies, defending the epistemological productivity of those defeated. Thus, all of them manage to show us the underlying legitimate relations defined by Weber.

Thanks to the tools that these intellectual heroes of the 20th century offer us, we are able to observe the material practices of power in Spain, and pose ourselves with a few key questions: which is the relation between spaniards and their geography, and what are the effects that these spatial relationships have had with power; which are the basic structural devices of political action; which institutions are the source of social models, of prestige, and or mimetic origins; which psychological habits and styles have allowed to express and arrange the political feelings and affections such as fear, security and prestige; how modesty and shame have been managed, what kind of life has been considered appropriate for the powerful, and how this distinction has been guaranteed. These questions -which our conference would like to address- take us far away from the traditional essentialist questions about being a spaniard, and focus on the specific civilizing process that Spanish society has had along history, as well as the political ethos that dominated. These questions separate us from the rudimentary explanations about the elites made by Ortega, and direct us towards the practices of the ruling strata in a specific historical moment, including the specific ways for obtaining voluntary obedience, the key element of the civilizing practice.

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