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Conclusion C urrent narratives of the history of nineteenth-century Spain, especially of the second half of the century, coincide in highlighting the central role played by the bourgeoisie. The culmination of the liberal state and its society in the system of the Restoration, after the Glorious Revolution of 1868, is described in history books as a bourgeois creation. At the same time, Spanish historians debate about the insufficient democratic, economic, and social achievements of this regime, and some attribute these insufficiencies to the many shortcomings of that social group. These historians find fault with the bourgeoisie due to their cultural and social subordination to the old aristocracy and the Catholic Church, the two main remaining forces of the Spanish Old Regime. According to this approach, bourgeois fascination with the lifestyles and value system of the aristocracy during the Restoration is an atavism characteristic of Spanish society, and the Catholic Church’s turn toward reactionary anti-liberal positions is a factor behind the resistance to democratic reform among Restoration’s political class. Consequently, these scholars portray the Spanish bourgeoisie as a timid and hesitant group that decided to side with the anti-modernizing and anti-democratic forces in order to secure its domination. This book demonstrates that this picture of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie is only partially accurate. It is true that Spain did not become a middle-class society until the 1960s, and that in comparison with most developed European societies of the modern era, its bourgeoisie was smaller and less influential within its own territory and, above all, in the international context. But the image of a social group that remained subordinated to the manners and styles of the old aristocracy, Conclusion • 221 and that manifested less commitment to modernity than their European counterparts, does not fully respond to the reality depicted in this study. Bourgeois admiration of aristocratic social rituals, conduct norms, and lifestyles was not exclusive to the Spanish. As a matter of fact, the fascination of the British and French middle classes for the aristocracy and the beau monde surpassed that of the Spaniards. The adoption of aristocratic forms of social behavior was not in contradiction with the establishment of a new and genuine bourgeois polite society. The bourgeoisie displaced the aristocracy from many of their positions of power but still admired their lavishness and chic. What marked the new bourgeois polite society as different is that it was open to wider social segments. In theory, any individual willing to adopt the norms established in conduct manuals automatically acquired gentility and was able to be part of exclusive society. The first step in the building of a bourgeois culture was the establishment and dissemination of gentility norms during the eighteenth century. As this book shows, bourgeois civility did not fully develop in Spain until the first third of the nineteenth century, but over the course of the century Spanish dominant groups made significant progress to catch up with European standards of conduct. In the early stages of this process Spaniards translated European manuals of behavior, transferring foreign molds only slightly adapted to the conditions of Spanish society. After 1850, a more genuinely Spanish set of conduct manuals reached the publishing market. These manuals reflected the characteristics of Spanish polite society—known by Spaniards as sociedad de buen tono. As in other parts of Europe, Spanish sociedad de buen tono was part of the bourgeois public sphere and was shaped by ideals drawn from a mix of aristocratic traditions and new bourgeois norms. Spanish sociedad de buen tono emerged as solid evidence of the imposition of bourgeois lifestyles in Spain. Bourgeois culture was also a consumer culture as consumption was a central element of buen tono. In quantitative terms, consumer patterns of nineteenth-century Spain lagged far behind from those of the industrial societies of northern Europe. England was a mass consumer society by end of the nineteenth century, a stage that Spain did reach until the 1960s. But while Spanish consumption was limited, our evidence demonstrates that Spanish urban middle classes embraced a vigorous consumer culture beginning in the last third of the eighteenth century, following a path similar to that of other European societies. The main manifestations of the rise of consumer culture in 222 • The Rise of Middle-Class Culture in Nineteenth-Century Spain Spain were the adoption of the ideals of domesticity by wider segments of the urban middle classes, as well as a slow but steady expansion of varied consumer practices...


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