This book considers the most electorally successful political party in Spain, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) which was in government for two of the three decades since it won office under Felipe González in 1982. Providing rich historical background, the book's main focus is on the period since General Franco's death in 1975 and charts Spain's modernisation under the PSOE, with a particular focus on the role played by European integration in this process. Covering events including the 2011 general election, the book is one of the most up-to-date works available in English and will be of great interest to academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students in the field of Spanish and European studies.
Chapter 5 is an examination of foreign and security policy during the party’s period in office under González. Particular attention is given to the three chief axes of Spanish foreign policy concern – the EU, Latin America and the Mediterranean – together with a consideration of the significance of the issue of Spain’s membership of NATO.
Chapter 6 is devoted to one of the key aspects of Spain’s modernisation over recent decades, the issue of devolution of power from central government to Spain’s regions. The chapter provides information on the previous UCD government’s handling of the issue before consideration is given to the PSOE government’s initiatives during its period in office under Felipe González.
Chapter 7 considers the PSOE’s period in opposition between 1996 and 2004 and the problematic issue of the leadership of the party following Felipe González’s resignation in 1997. It also links the material covered in the previous chapters to the more recent period during which the PSOE was led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
Progressive ideology in a postsocial democratic world?
Chapter 8 analyses the question of whether the PSOE’s period in office under Rodríguez Zapatero can be characterised by a distinctive ideology. Given the constraints on political parties in the contemporary era with respect to economic policy – and most particularly, for our purposes, the constraints on social democratic parties – political parties have looked beyond the economic field in order to differentiate themselves from their political opponents. The chapter examines the degree to which ideology was employed to differentiate the PSOE under Rodríguez Zapatero from the party under González. The chapter also considers the theoretical and philosophical influences claimed by Rodríguez Zapatero and includes coverage of policy in the following areas: the protection and extension of civil and gender rights, including the Dependency Law; historical memory; and constitutional affairs, including reform of regional autonomy statutes.
Chapter 1 considers the PSOE within the context of social democracy and the dilemmas facing social democratic parties in the contemporary era. Emphasis is placed on the political environment in which the PSOE operated and the constraints which have conditioned its actions. The tension between pragmatism and ideology serves as a backdrop to the chapter.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of the PSOE’s history, from the party’s foundation in 1879 to its victory at the 1982 general election. The emphasis is on establishing the ‘character’ of Spanish Socialism so as to place in context its actions in office and opposition.
Chapter 4 considers economic policy under the premiership of Felipe González. The PSOE’s claims to have brought about Spain’s modernisation rest upon the economic transformation of the country which took place during this period. Coverage of public spending on the welfare state and infrastructure are also included in the chapter. Given that the economic credibility of the government was to a degree undermined by the simultaneous loss of political credibility linked to myriad corruption allegations relating to the PSOE, the chapter also contains a section considering the phenomenon of corruption and its significance for the party.
Chapter 3 focuses on Spain’s relations with the European Community up until membership was achieved under the PSOE in 1986. The justification for including this material is that the PSOE – historically considered to be Spain’s most ‘European’ political party – considers the securing of Spain’s membership of the Community to be one of its greatest achievements in office. The imperatives imposed by European integration underpinned the PSOE’s policies throughout its entire period in government. Moreover, given that ‘Europeanisation’ became almost interchangeable with the term ‘modernisation’ in the party’s discourse under Gonzalez, this level of detail appears apposite.