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The Spanish Frustration

The Spanish Frustration

How a Ruinous Empire Thwarted the Nation-State

By Josep M. Colomer

Old troubles persist in modern Spain, including huge public debts, extensive corruption, widespread unlawfulness, oligarchical politics, territorial splits, and permanent protests and riots. The origins of these problems are remote: the ruinous Spanish Empire made a weak state, which built an incomplete nation, which sustains a minority democracy. "The Spanish Frustration" provides an interpretation of several important aspects of present-day Spain and its past stories.

Hardback, 210 Pages


June 2019

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

Old troubles with remote origins persist in modern Spain. When did Spain screw up? "The Spanish Frustration" argues that, in the long term, Spain missed the opportunity to become a consolidated modern nation-state because it was entangled in imperial adventures for several centuries when it should have been building a solid domestic basis for further endeavours. The opportunity of shaping a modern, civilized Spanish society was lost.

Largely as a consequence of the waste of resources in the imperial effort, Spain missed the chance to build a civil administration, institutions of political representation and the rule of law at the right time. For long periods, militarism and clericalism substituted a weak state. As states create nations, rather than the other way around, the weakness of the Spanish state made the building of a unified cultural nation a frustrated, incomplete effort.

Lacking the institutional and cultural bases of a solid nation-state, the democratic regime established since the late 1970s in Spain has been based on a political party oligarchy which tends to produce minority governments and exclusionary decisions. Catalonia, the Basque Country and other centrifugal territorial autonomies also lend less support to the regime and threaten it with splits. People’s dissatisfaction and disengagement with the way democracy works are widespread.

In short: A ruinous empire made a weak state, which built an incomplete nation, which sustains a minority democracy. That, in a nutshell, is the political history of modern Spain.


“An acerbic, deeply probing study by one of the very best analysts of Spanish affairs. Its social analysis is incisive, adding to the most substantial current account of Spanish politics on offer.”
—Stanley Payne, Hilldale-Jaume Vicens Vives Professor of History Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

“One of the most severe books on Spain that have been published in recent years. The Spanish Frustration reviews more than five centuries of Spanish history with an analysis without concessions for optimism. It makes the reader regret having been born into the Peninsula.”
—El País, Madrid

“Colomer provides a carefully selected empirical information that perfectly illustrates his arguments, and his clear and austere prose, habitual in all his texts, manuals, monographs and press articles, converts reading into a placid entertainment. He does not resort to essences and stereotyped national characters, but he wields serious data and arguments. That’s why his book is so stimulating.”
—Oscar R. Buznego, Professor of Political Science, University of Oviedo, Spain

Author Information

Josep M. Colomer is professor of political science at Georgetown University, USA. He is a founding member of the Spanish Political Association, a member by election of the Academy of Europe and a life member of the American Political Science Association, which have awarded several of his works. Colomer is the author or editor of many books, a number of which have been published in five languages, including The European Empire (2016), How Global Institutions Rule the World (2014) and The Science of Politics (2010).


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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. A Ruinous Empire; 3. A Weak State; 4. An Incomplete Nation; 5. A Minority Democracy; 6. Conclusion: Transitioning Outward; 7. Sources; Notes; Index.

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