The Mobile Nation is a necessary book for a number of reasons. First of all, it addresses an understudied epoch of Franco’s regime between the autarky of the 1940s and the desarrollismo of the 1960s: the so called “decenio bisagra” (hinge decade). While the former two periods have been amply explored by historians, economists, sociologists and cultural studies scholars, the hinge decade has been the “middle child” of studies on the Franco regime. We may find a reason for this in the fact that the hinge decade is a time fraught with contradictions, “trapped between these two epistemes (the Falangist/autarkic and the technocratic)” (7). Pavlović examines the period through the conceptual lens of mobility, be that physical/geographical—immigration and tourism—or metaphorical—referring to the transformation of social values due to the impact of consumerism on the Spanish social fabric. This conceptual framework proves apt for grasping the liminal nature of the time period and for delving into its incongruities. Pavlović thus offers a thorough and nuanced picture of the transition between the autarky [End Page 337] and the technocracy instead of trying to simplify its complexity.
Also, this book is necessary, and indeed quite exemplary, due to its effective and truly interdisciplinary methodological approach. Conceived as a “socio-cultural history of consumerism” (3), The Mobile Nation examines the expansion of mass-culture industries and their crucial impact on a changing Spanish society vis-à-vis the political and economic system of the Franco regime. In this way, Pavlović examines in great detail how the technocrats co-opted—not only via their political and economic policies but also through their own theoretical discourse disseminated both through public appearances and through a quite extensive corpus of published texts—mass and popular entertainment industries to launch a renewed image for the regime that would fit better in the landscapes of Western modernity. The reader gets an informed account of the new position enjoyed by the publishing industry (chapter 1), the emerging public television (chapter 2), the popular child-star film (chapter 3), the mass tourism industry (chapter 4), and the car industry (chapter 5).
As a reader, I was pleasantly surprised by the choice of the literary market as the starting case study for a project that focuses on popular and mass culture industries. Pavlović reminds us that literary studies do fit in engaging interdisciplinary scholarly projects by drawing on Bret Levinson’s concept of “the end of literature.” By that Levinson means not its disappearance but rather as its relocation from a privileged status in the cultural sphere to having to struggle for legitimacy with the popular and mass cultural products. This concept is rather useful for Pavlović’s recalibration of Spain’s publishing industries and, above all, to showcase that the literary scene, once thought of as a space of resistance to Francoism, had unintentionally become a cultural site rather convenient for technocratic Spain since it “irrevocably changed any vision of a postwar, “Eternal” or Immobile Spain” (71). In fact, while the whole book is extremely informative and insightful, I was particularly engaged with the excellent analyses of lesser known literary works by canonical authors such as Juan Goystisolo, Ignacio Aldecoa, and Luis Martín Santos in relation to the socio-historical context in which those works emerge. In particular, I consider the discussion of Condenada belleza del mundo, a largely unknown text by Martín Santos, a precious contribution to the field.
Finally, this book is necessary because it shows that theoretical speculation and academic rigor do not have to entail the effacing of the cultural production under scrutiny. Influential projects of the field sometimes use that cultural production as a pretext for theoretical pyrotechnics. In The Mobile Nation, the object of study does not vanish with the theoretical fireworks display. Rather, the author engages the reader to further explore other case studies, other cogent paradoxes of this underrated period of the Franco regime. Highly recommended.