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  • Introduction:Utopias and Dystopias in Modern Spain
  • Carlos Ferrera (bio) and Juan Pro (bio)

Utopianism has found expression in several ways throughout history and has reflected the peculiarities of the cultural, political, social, and economic settings in which it has come about. Spain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been no exception, because while the country has not occupied a significant place in the dominant historical narrative of utopias, recent research has begun to show that it was indeed where many tracts with utopian—and, by way of correlation, dystopian—content came on the scene. Whether we look at the concept of utopia from a formal standpoint, in the sense of a specific literary genre, or we demand certain content features to discuss true utopias, we find that they thrived in Spain, once it was free of the shackles that had been imposed on freedom of thought in preceding centuries.

Utopian proposals first came about during the Enlightenment, in the eighteenth century. At that time utopian tracts appeared in Spain, such as the anonymous Descripción de la Sinapia, península en la Tierra Austral (“Description of Sinapia, a peninsula in Terra Australis,” generally attributed to Pedro Rodríguez Campomanes) and the design of the New Townships in the Sierra Morena by Pablo de Olavide. Starting in the early decades of the nineteenth century, the liberal revolution opened up new spaces for freedom of thought, in which utopian discourse that was linked to precedents from earlier times spread. On [End Page 326] October 12, 1820, for example, an article in the Diario Mercantil newspaper in Cádiz put in the mouth of a traveler an account of his visit to a country called Utopia and the advantages to be derived there from free trade.

The dossier we hereby introduce explores the plurality of approaches and objects of study that have allowed us to recover the vitality of that utopian thrust in modern Spanish history. It is the fruit of a collective research project undertaken by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid: it ranges from the spread of transnational utopian collective imagination in the nineteenth century to dystopian scaremongering in the twentieth, including an idealization of the future to be found in given political programs and the presence of utopian elements in deep-rooted cultural practices.

The first article in the dossier—Juan Pro’s “Thinking of a Utopian Future: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century Spain”—shows that the heterogeneous European movement known as utopian socialism had a meaningful implementation in Spain. Certain forms of utopianism, such as that inspired by Fourier, garnered particular support in the country, to the extent that they opened the way for tracts to circulate, plans for experimental communities (phalansteries) to be drawn up, and a political movement that left its mark on the birth of Spanish democratic socialism as well as anarchism. This analysis, as well as justifying the rightful place of the Spanish focal point in the worldwide Fourierist movement as a whole, serves to reinterpret some of the latter’s features on a global level. Indeed, the Spanish case tangibly highlights features such as the relationship between Fourierism and romantic sensitivity, the role that utopianism played in women’s liberation, and the coexistence between the phalanstery movement’s utopian outlook, on the one hand, and the pragmatism of a movement geared toward dissemination and political action, on the other.

Florencia Peyrou’s article, “The Harmonic Utopia of Spanish Republicanism (1840–1873),” takes us through the early history of the republican movement in Spain, from when it first appeared to the proclamation of the first republic in 1873. This perusal attests to the hefty utopian content entailed in the idealization of the future republican government, as somewhat more than a political and institutional changeover: to wit, the advent of a new world in which harmony would reign and all the country’s problems would vanish along with the detested monarchy. Introducing the republic with such poetic, not to say religious, flourishes came down to the difficulties inherent in a persecuted radical movement that was often forced to adopt marginal positions. However, in time, it was somewhat more than a propaganda tool, [End Page 327...


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