01.09.2019 00:00 h.
Geographers have begun to take the floor. The phenomenon is not typical of Catalonia or the rest of Spain. It is European and worldwide. The thesis is that the world has begun a process that benefits the great world cities, to the detriment of their national territories. It is a movement that drives social sectors with more economic power, because they do not want to know anything about concepts such as national solidarity. What happened in Catalonia in recent years is part of this dynamic, according to French geographer Christophe Guilluy, author of No Society. The end of the western middle class (Taurus), a work read and discussed throughout Europe. His diagnosis for Catalonia is blunt: “Presented as a case of cultural irredentism, the separatism of the Catalans reveals in the first place a reaction of the rich regions to the economic crisis and the collapse of the Spanish middle classes”.
The trend is global. The demand for a global capitalism, promoted by the local bourgeoisies that have benefited the most, leads to a process in which the territory and the popular classes that cannot access that new world are forgotten. With this, the middle classes that acted as glue are put aside. And they no longer have the power or means to exercise as the mattress allowing for a cohesive and, politically, moderate society.
Catalonia, “exemplary” model
Guilluy goes deep into the case of Catalonia, considering it as an “exemplary” model to understand the new phenomenon. His idea, also verifying what is happening in France, with a handful of cities functioning, while leaving the French territory in the lurch, is that a favorable political context has been created for the territorial secession of the bourgeoisies, whether local or considered as national in a certain place. “The independence movements tend to hide a process of social and cultural secession that actually intends to dismantle national solidarity and validate the unequal territorial model of globalization, that of large cities. More than a renewal of nationalism, it is first of all the secession of the bourgeoisie that carries the balkanization of developed countries in a latent state”, says the author of No society.
His gaze is focused on Barcelona, understanding that Catalonia has become a “metropolis-region”. He insists that it can be a model to explain global changes: “The Catalan metropolitan region is exemplary. Catalonia is a rich region, very rich (it generates 20% of Spanish GDP, where 15% of the population lives). Integrated into the world economy, it is structured around its great city, Barcelona, which concentrates about half of the Catalan population. In a country weakened by a globalized economic model that is seeing its middle class disappear, it seems the exception. Presented as a case of cultural irredentism, the separatism of the Catalans reveals in the first place a reaction of the rich regions to the economic crisis and the collapse of the Spanish middle classes”.
The criticisms coming from other countries, or of French authors in particular, are discredited by the independence movement, understanding that the Catalan reality is unknown, as well as the relationship of political power with the Spanish government. But Guilluy offers a great knowledge of the internal political relations in Catalonia, and he refers to the alliance between liberals and libertarians, between a liberal bourgeoisie and progressive leftist forces close to anarchism, which is what has occurred between the old CiU and the CUP, in addition to ERC:
“This nationalist vote is characteristic of rich regions (such as Scotland or Flanders) who wish to preserve their dominant position by freeing themselves from any national solidarity. It is primarily directed by a liberal-libertarian ideology characteristic of the new bourgeoisies. Thus, the Catalan nationalists were supported by a part of the Catalan bourgeoisie who wished to strengthen their position through fiscal independence, but also a youth of the left or extreme left who championed libertarian values, and the two groups supported the process of globalization and openness to the world and to other peoples”, says the French geographer, who has also thoroughly studied the phenomenon of peripheries in his country, as described in La France périphérique (2015).
Concentration of wealth in Barcelona
His heavy attack against that bourgeoisie that has wanted to take advantage – a dart towards a leader who could be Artur Mas, the helmsman who decides the beginning of the process, in 2012 – is straightforward: “The ruling classes use a real national feeling to impose a neoliberal model that, consequently, harms the popular classes in Spain, but also in Catalonia, where the concentration of wealth and jobs in Barcelona has operated to the detriment of the Catalan popular classes. In the rich regions, the independence movements are nothing more than the mask of the secession of the bourgeoisie trying to get out of the national frameworks (where solidarity must be exercised) and join the supranational frameworks (where market law is exercised). That Catalan example illustrates the fever in a bougeoisie willing to do anything to abandon the common good. Aware of this risk, the Spanish State, already over-indebted, will stop the process”.
Guilluy’s thesis is understood by way of another nationalism, that of Corsica, which turns out to be totally opposite to that of Catalonia. “While the Catalan independence process speaks to us mainly about the secession of the elites and the support of the bourgeoisie to the globalized liberal model, the Corsican nationalist strength is part of a desire of the Corsican elites to respond to the social and cultural precariousness of the popular classes of the island”.
An analysis from France, which has revolutionized the debate on the transformation of territories in Europe. The answer, as Guilluy proposes, is geography and connections with the global economy.