Intellectuals and the aftermath of war

Inside graffitied buildings at the University of Barcelona by the elegant Las Ramblas in the historic centre of the cosmopolitan city, I addressed the topic of intellectual life and the aftermaths of war in relation to three noted figures, mostly in the second half of the 20th century.

These figures are: Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), Enrique Tierno Galván (1918-1986) and Camilo Barcia Trelles (1888-1977), not to be mistaken with his brother Augusto Barcia Trelles (1881-1961), also an interesting figure for another time and place. 

What are we to understand by the ominous sign of “war”? A permanent condition of being? Severe, harrowing test indeed big-time-big-space form of politics? Is there a way out of such politics? Law? Peace? What follows “total war”? Is international law the next chapter of significant difference? Or is it the first chapter that will be inevitably followed by disorder? What notions of “space” do we see emerging in between 1939 & 1945 and after? Schmitt’s spatialization of social energies: still convincing or useful methodology? What is missing? What are these two Spaniards doing in the company of this troublesome German scholar of tremendous impact? What are the differences? Where is this Europe –and the liberal West with it-- going in the 1950s? Already towards an inevitable debilitation? This presentation handled some of these burning issues. I played off the contrast with Anglophone environments (US and UK).

Four academics stand in front of a banner

Giovanni Cattini (Universitat de Barcelona), Fernando Gómez Herrero (University of Birmingham), Marcio Orozco (Universidad Panamericana, Mexico), Nick Sharman (University of Nottingham)

I brought “Dos Carlos,” so to speak, to the small-space of the Iberian peninsula, mostly during the Franco Regime but also afterwards. Does any of this conservative and authoritarian thought, in complicity with early Nazism, remain alive today vis-à-vis the still prevailing orthodoxy of the “liberal West”? Distressingly, yes. Symptoms of the loosening of the “liberal order” are easy to detect in different institutions, politics, university and mass media to name a few inside disparate national climates such as Brexit vis-à-vis the European Union, Trump America, etc. This international conference had three languages in unequal relationship (Catalan, Spanish and English) and the focus was mostly on the contemporary history coming out of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Debates formed around a renewed “revolt of the masses,” in the classic formula, even a Right-bound populism (what some authors call the “great Regression”)? Can we learn anything from the geopolitical situation of the following three figures of uneven visibility and uncertain impact? Yes, we can indeed.