Catalonia vs Spain: The Philosophy Behind the News

What the crisis reveals about our ideas of borders

Following Catalonia’s referendum, ensuing protests, and the tensions between the Spanish government imposing a direct rule on the region, and the Catalan parliament declaring independence, we take a step back and look at the big questions behind this political crisis in our curated weekly briefing The Ideas Behind the Headlines.

We revisit our debate A World Without Borders, in which journalists Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Sameer Rahim, and "the brains behind Brexit" Daniel Hannan analyse the tensions between our ideas of nationhood, democracy and freedom. Would we be better off to get rid of nations and borders in favour of a wider, global community?

Is an independent Catalan state actually going to work out as Catalans hope it would, and if not, is that an argument against it? Perhaps our debate Dreaming the Future could inspire some answers. Do utopias fail because of the limits of our imagination or our leaders is its key question, with former leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett arguing for the creative power of utopias and English philosopher Roger Scruton denouncing their dangers.

In A Tribal World, we look at whether communities inevitably fall into tribalism, reinforce existing hierarchies or are a harmless part of what makes us human.

Breakaway movements divide us over our ideas about democracy. The debate The Rise and Fall of Democracy, featuring columnists Owen Jones and Laurie Penny, among others, asks whether democracy is just a blip in world history (or whether we need more of it).

The failure of democracy often translates as violence, either on the part of the state, or of the marginalized. As the Spanish government used the police force to prevent Catalan voters participate in the referendum on the 1st of October, many have asked whether escalating violence and even another civil war is inevitable. Is violence ever a justifiable and effective political strategy? We ask our panellists in the debate Gandhi vs Guevara.

And finally: the economic repercussions of the breakaway of one of Spain’s wealthiest regions might impoverish the rest of the country. In Beyond Borders, political theorist Chandran Kukathas puts forward the idea that borders are essentially about privilege and should therefore be removed.

Image: An independence campaigner holds a placard saying ‘Freedom – we want you back home’ at a rally in Barcelona. Credit: Rex/Shutterstock

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