Religious Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship: A Comparison of France and Spain, 1870s-1930s

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 253 (University of Glasgow)
Tiago Fernandes , Political Studies, New University of Lisbon
Under pressure from popular revolts and radical-democratic political parties and movements, both France and Spain experienced in the 1870s attempts to create democratic-republican regimes. But whereas France successfully stabilized democracy up until the late 1930s, Spain in the same period suffered a series of unstable political regimes (oligarchic-clientelistic liberalism and a diversity of forms of military rule) which culminated in the 1930s in the collapse of the second democratic experience and the consolidation of fascism. This paper argues that legacies of Catholic doctrine and of the institutional organization of the Catholic Church established from the late 17th to the mid-19th centuries contributed to the differences in the political development of the two countries. Specifically, legacies of strong state control over the Catholic Church and the existence of a liberal wing within the catholic hierarchy created broader pro-democratic political coalitions in the founding years of the republics, thus augmenting the chances of democratic consolidation in the long-run.