Why was Franco exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen in late 2019? How is it that he was there in the first place? Why did Catalonia erupt suddenly in October 2017? Why don’t you hear so much about the Basque Country anymore? How did Podemos gather momentum so quickly in 2014-15, and why did half of that support vanish five years later? Isn’t it counterintuitive that a Catholic-majority country also has the most LGBT-friendly society in the world?
Understanding the most significant events in recent Spanish politics requires spelling out the unspoken but enduring foundations of the country’s deepest fears and weaknesses, its Achilles' heels. In Greek mythology, an Achilles' heel is a vulnerability that can lead to downfall despite the apparent general strength of the full body. Casla uses this term to define the underlying factors that, while by no means unique, are characteristic of a particular society, delimit what is possible and shape the political debate. They are the primary political frailties without which a country’s politics cannot be properly comprehended.
Koldo Casla is a Lecturer in Law and the Director of the Human Rights Centre Clinic of the University of Essex, UK. Between 2013 and 2019, he worked as a researcher on social rights in Spain and the UK. Between 2011 and 2013, he was the Chief of Staff of Ararteko, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Parliament of the Basque Country, Spain. Casla holds a PhD in European and International Studies from King’s College London, and is the author of Politics of International Human Rights Law Promotion in Western Europe: Order Versus Justice (Routledge, 2019).
1. Spanish Politics Beyond Franco and Catalonia
2. Achilles’ Heels: The Strong Foundations of a Country’s Weaknesses
3. The Territory and the People: How Many Nations?
4. Dealing with the Past: Franco’s Legacy
5. Who Weaves the Social Safety Net?
6. “It’s the Church We Have Lit Upon, Sancho”: Catholicism and Conservative Politics
7. Vulnerabilities Need not be Weaknesses
Koldo Casla has written a sophisticated and well-written account of four historical vulnerabilities. This is a must-read for scholars and students interested in contemporary Spain.
After years of original thinking and careful examination of Spain, Koldo Casla offers an up-to-date, comprehensive and critical view of Spanish politics. Written in a reader-friendly manner, this book will be a reference not only for those interested in Spain, but also for those who care about the traces of the past in contemporary politics in new democracies. I cannot think of a better point of entry to understand contemporary Spanish politics.
In order to understand Spain properly, one must read this book. Its rigorous analysis and the abundant and detailed information about Spain’s recent history are key to make sense of the problems, the good attributes and the deficiencies of the country. What’s truly typical about Spain are, in fact, the four vulnerabilities covered in this book.
In Spain and its Achilles' Heels: The Strong Foundations of a Country’s Weaknesses, Koldo Casla offers in a very challenging way the main flaws of modern democratic Spain. His thoughtful arguments about the role played by historical legacies help to illuminate the challenges of the present.
Combining personal anecdotes with deeper analysis, this book provides an excellent insight into what makes Spanish politics tick. Written in an engaging and highly readable style, it will appeal to a broad audience interested in understanding Spain today.
Koldo Casla provides a deep and convincing analysis of how contemporary Spanish politics has been specially marked by the mismanagement of four weaknesses (or Achilles heels): nationalism, religion, the Francoist past and an immature welfare state. The book is an essential reading for anyone trying to understand Spanish politics today.
With an original and bold approach, Koldo Casla reveals not only the Achilles’ Heels of Spain, but also its Samson’s hair, the light and shadow of the country’s social, economic, political and cultural reality of recent decades. The author presents a first-hand testimony combined with academic rigour, and this delicate balance allows him to paint a sharp and well-focused picture. Koldo Casla’s meticulous, accessible and personal account will be of great value to newcomers to the study of Spanish politics as well as to those already familiar with this one-of-a-kind country.