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Structural change, collective action, and social unrest in 1930s Spain

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  • Domènech Feliu, Jordi
  • Miley, Thomas Jeffrey

Abstract

The Spanish 2nd Republic (1931-1936) witnessed one of the fastest and deepest processes of popular mobilization in interwar Europe, generating a decisive reactionary wave that brought the country to the Civil War (1936-1939). We show in the paper that both contemporary comment and part of the historiography makes generalizations about the behaviour of the working classes in the period that stress idealistic, re-distributive and even religious motives to join movements of protest. In some other cases, state repression, poverty, and deteriorating living standards have been singled out as the main determinants of participation. This paper uses collective action theory to argue that key institutional changes and structural changes in labour markets were crucial to understand a significant part of the explosive popular mobilization of the period. We argue first that, before the second Republic, temporary migrants had been the main structural limitation against the stabilization of unions and collective bargaining in agricultural labour markets and in several service and industrial sectors. We then show how several industries underwent important structural changes since the late 1910s which stabilized part of the labour force and allowed for union growth and collective bargaining. In agricultural labour markets or in markets in which unskilled temporary workers could not be excluded, unions benefitted from republican legislation restricting temporary migrations and, as a consequence, rural unions saw large gains membership and participation. Historical narratives that focus on state repression or on changes in living standards to explain collective action and social conflict in Spain before the Civil War are incomplete without a consideration of the role of structural changes in labour markets from 1914 to 1931.

Suggested Citation

  • Domènech Feliu, Jordi & Miley, Thomas Jeffrey, 2013. "Structural change, collective action, and social unrest in 1930s Spain," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp13-05, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
  • Handle: RePEc:cte:whrepe:wp13-05
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marco H. D. Van Leeuwen, 1997. "Trade Unions and the Provision of Welfare in the Netherlands, 1910–1960," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(4), pages 764-791, November.
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    3. Domènech, Jordi & Elu-Terán, Alexander, 2008. "Women's Paid Work in an Urban Developing Economy. Barcelona in 1930," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(03), pages 375-401, January.
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    Keywords

    Structural change;

    JEL classification:

    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J43 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Agricultural Labor Markets
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy

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