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The New Spaniards

by John Hooper

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256278,552 (3.65)48
A fully revised, expanded and updated edition of this masterly portrayal of contemporary Spain. The restoration of democracy in 1977 heralded a period of intense change that continues today. Spain has become a land of extraordinary paradoxes in which traditional attitudes and contemporary preoccupations exist side by side. Focussing on issues which affect ordinary Spaniards, from housing to gambling, from changing sexual mores to rising crime rates. John Hooper's fascinating study brings to life the new Spain of the twenty-first century.… (more)
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Hooper's "the New Spaniards" focuses on how Spanish society has evolved following the introduction of democrary in Spain in the late 1970s. Topics covered include modern culture and art, feminism, regionalism/separatism and the history of the political parties.

Many many of these topics may suggest lush and sensational accounts of modern Spain, but instead Hooper relies on history, economics, statistics and law to convey his viewpoints. (He does a brilliant job comparing Spain with other European countries especially.)

While this makes his points convincing and irreproachable, I found that his reliance on "hard" facts made the text feel a bit dry and difficult. I was left wishing for more of his personal opinion, because he had demonstrated his intelligence and wit between the lines.

One disclaimer: The book was first published in 1986. Even though it's been recently updated, many of the chapters feel a little dated.

Read if: You're a fan of history, law and governments, or if you're looking for a well-researched book about Spain.

Avoid if: You're looking for a quick, fun read on the day-to-day lives of Spanish people. ( )
1 vote jasonli | Apr 30, 2010 |
As someone who has lived in Spain for the last 21 years and an interested observer of Spanish affairs, I'd say that 1) that there's plenty in here that I didn't know 2) that it's an invaluable guide to modern Spain.

It's a very refreshing read after the acres of nonsense written about the "real Spain" by non-Spanish speaking romantically inclined ex-patriats. The author thoroughly explores the "Autonomies" question which is still the principal political hot potato 11 years after this book was published.

He has some doubts about the depth of Spanish democracy, quoting the opinion that it's necessary to have two electoral changes of government for a genuine democracy. He was writing at a time when the PSOE was the only real party to hold government since the death of Franco, but since then the Partido Popular has gained power under Aznar and the PSOE has recently regained power under Zapatero - so his condition has been fulfilled, I'm sure to Spain's great benefit. He also had doubts about Spain's ability to close the economic gap with the rest of Europe, and I think that this would have made an extra chapter if the book had been revised in 2006.
He highlights the stop-go nature of the post-Franco economy with it's inflationary booms, high interest rates and weak currency, but of course this situation has been radically altered by Spain's adoption of the Euro. Now it can run it's traditionally enormous (boom time) trade deficit without high interest rates or a depreciating currency and the boom just goes on and on. Spain is currently using more concrete every year than any other country in Europe and it's growth is consistently outstripping that of France and Germany.

The book is full of very relevant, but not very well known information, such as the history of the major internal migrations in search of work, or the lack of an industrial revolution leading to a notable lack of "class" ideas with regionalism having much greater importance. Above all there is the (vacuous) general hedonistic materialism that he writes about so well. ( )
  Miro | Aug 30, 2006 |
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The fight for freedom is always easier than the practice of freedom. -- Matija Beckovic
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To Lucy
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Chapter 1 : Although Franco's regime was frequently referred to as a fascist dictatorship, the description was never wholly correct.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A fully revised, expanded and updated edition of this masterly portrayal of contemporary Spain. The restoration of democracy in 1977 heralded a period of intense change that continues today. Spain has become a land of extraordinary paradoxes in which traditional attitudes and contemporary preoccupations exist side by side. Focussing on issues which affect ordinary Spaniards, from housing to gambling, from changing sexual mores to rising crime rates. John Hooper's fascinating study brings to life the new Spain of the twenty-first century.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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