This post summarises the second debate of the conference cycle about the crisis in Catalonia, titled Spain and Catalonia: Is There a Way Out of the Impasse?, took place on February 8 at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). This debate analysed the political causes of the conflict, the current crisis, and the possible means of resolution. Jonathan Hopkin, Sandra León and Toni Rodon, three academics whose research has addressed the Spanish political system from different perspectives, were the speakers responsible for discussing these issues. In this post we collect the main ideas that emerged throughout the conference.
The causes of the conflict: How much does the economic crisis explain?
The moderator of the session, Antonio Barroso, opened the debate by asking Hopkin to what extent the Catalan case is unique in Europe or if it is comparable with that of other regions. In addition to referring to the dynamics of party competition in Catalonia -particularly the struggle for hegemony between the independence parties- the English political scientist defended the need to place Catalonia in the context of comparative politics. For him, the secessionist movement must be framed within the many anti-establishment movements that have emerged in recent years in many advanced democracies, such as Brexit, Trump’s victory, or the triumph of Syriza. All these phenomena share the fact that they emerged after the Great Recession that began in 2008. According to Hopkin, high levels of unemployment and the increase in inequality tend to provoke the radicalisation of political positions. In addition, in adverse economic circumstances identity politics prove to be an especially powerful weapon. Therefore, even if each of these anti-establishment movements is presented as unique, in reality, all originate in the important deterioration of the economic situation.