The ethic of the Spanish constitution

Ethics || Four Levels of Interpretation || Flax Golden Tales

In Spain, the intelligence needed to narrow down dialogue, the ability to establish agreed principles to mitigate individual, social and national tensions, was based on the exercise of consensus.

This trait was, and is, the maxim of moral conduct and foundational awareness behind our constitution.

Since 1978, our nation has built itself around the following principles: the primacy of the individual and civil liberties on the one hand; and an identity as a community that safeguards its diversity on the other.

While the even balance between nationalist and state political forces has not changed substantially since 1978, the diversity of identities, as a social value, has vanished from political and institutional life in Catalonia.

In contrast to the linguistic and demographic homogeneity of Scotland or Quebec, which stands at over 85% (Divine, 2018; Scriber 2001), Catalonia’s identity is clearly multifarious. 61% of the population is of non-local origin (Cabré, 1999) and 31% of it speak Catalan as their mother tongue (Idescat, 2013).

The Spanish supraidentity, however, is seen as a rival which ought to be quashed.

Institutionally, the repudiation of Spain’s status as a nation is a communication standard (Catalan Media Corporation, CCMA, 2013) and the nationalist parties lay down Catalan as the favoured working language to unify the institutions and society (ER, JXC and CUP-CC 2007 manifestos, published only in catalan). They even declare irredentist territorial ambitions! (Resolution306/11, Catalan Parliament).

There is broad consensus among scholars regarding the incompatibility of vehement, opposing proposals and the functioning of democracy.

One great specialist in the field, Robert Dahl (1956, p.119), wrote that ‘No solution to the intensity problem is possible through constitutional or procedural rules.’

Meanwhile Donald Horowitz, an influential academic more inclined to believe in the fluidity of identities and the communal values of solidarity, concedes that ‘Things can be done…but there are good systemic reasons why it is difficult to produce institutions conductive to the emergence of multi-ethnic democracy’ (1993, p.20).

According to Horowitz (1998), the democratic system is based on the choice between alternatives and does not favour inclusivity. At the same time, power in ethnically divided societies is not a means but an end in itself, because it confers self-esteem and ensures survival (Horowitz, 1985).

These and other relevant authors (e.g. Lijphart, 1977) indicate that abuse of any lack of alternation in societies with plural identities can be curbed not only through structural measures but also by moderation on the part of the elite on the basis of shared civil values, minimising identity-based values and increasing the neutrality of the institutional apparatus.

It remains to be seen how such a change can be encouraged. That is to say, how to return to the constitutional values of the consensus reached in 1978, a consensus, it is worth remembering, which was neither casual nor idiosyncratic, but rather a consequence of the troubled experience that all Europe without exception lived through as a result of the frequent (unagreed) changes of constitution and civil turmoil endured in the 19thand 20thcenturies.


Cabré, A., 1999. El sistema català de reproducció (Vol. 35) (The Catalan reproductive system). Proa. The fruit of her thesis supervised by J. Nadal, Cabré uses the generational analysis devised by the French school of demographics and its relevance in analyses of family descent to demonstrate how the constant flow of immigration is an intrinsic component of Catalan demographics.

CUP-CC, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular–Crida Constituent. Programa polític de la CUP-CC. Eleccions del 21 de Desembre de 2017. (Manifesto for the Elections of 21 December 2017). 21D Dempeus, pp.36 & 42

Dahl, R.A.,1956. A preface to democratic theory (Vol. 115). University of Chicago Press. An essential read which suggests that majority control is not exercised by the institutions but by the democratic values of the society which sustains it.

CCMA, Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals (Catalan Media Corporation), 01/07/2013. Libro de Estilo. Guía Editorial. Principios de la CCMA. Principios editoriales. El país. Denominaciones. (Style Guide. Editorial Guide. Principles of the CCMA. Editorial principles. The country. Denominations). ‘[En la] Corporación Catalana de Medios Audiovisuales lo términos país, nación, gobierno… hacen referencia a Cataluña’ (In the Catalan Media Corporation, the terms country, nation, government… refer to Catalonia).

Divine, T.M., 2018. New Scots: Scotland’s Immigrant Communities since 1945.  Edinburgh University Press

ER, Esquerra Republicana. Eleccions al Parlament 2007. Programa electoral. La democràcia sempre guanya (Manifesto for the Parliamentary Elections of 2007, Democracy always wins), p.99.

Horowitz, D.L., 1985. Ethnic groups in conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chapter 5. An excellent description and analysis of how conflict arises and what the objectives sought are. Horowitz defends the primacy of ethnicity over social class as a binding agent, describes its relationship with the political party system and proposes ways to reduce ethnic tensions.

Horowitz, D.L., 1993. Democracy in divided societies. Journal of democracy, 4(4), pp.18-38.

Horowitz, D.L., 1998. Structure and strategy in ethnic conflict (pp. 1-47). World Bank.

Idescat. Instituto Catalán de Estadística Generalidad de Cataluña. Estadística d’usos lingüístics de la població 2013(Statistics on language use in the population, Catalan Institute for Statistics), p.6.

JxC,  Junts per Catalunya. Eleccions al Parlament de Catalunya, 21 de desembre de 2017. Programa electoral (Manifesto for the Elections of 21 December 2017), pp.74-5

Lijphart, A., 1977. Democracy in plural societies: A comparative exploration. Yale University Press. An exponent of the Consociational School (in favour of power-sharing between ethnic groups), Lijphart gives a magnificent description of majority- or consensus-based governments. The different types of governments and predictions are the subject of constant debate.

Rabushka, A. and Shepsle, K.A., 1972. Politics in plural societies. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.

Resolution 306/11 2016 of the Catalan Parliament. Publicació de l’adopció en el Ple, p.8. 3 ‘El Parlament de Catalunya reconeix la realitat del conjunct Països Catalans … expressa el seu supor als moviments… que reclamen el dret a decidir l’estatus polític propi, els drets lingüístics, els vincles mutus…’(The Parliament of Catalonia recognises the reality of the Catalan Countries as a whole… expresses its support for their sefl-determination movements… that demand the right to decide their own political status, and mutual tides (original in Catalan, no translation into Spanish made available).

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