ISCI is a cross-disciplinary research centre working to further our understanding of state crime: organisational deviance violating human rights

Spain must be defended: explaining the criminalization of political dissent in Catalonia

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State Crime Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2020)

Ignasi Bernat (University of Winchester) and David Whyte (University of Liverpool)

This paper asks how we can explain the remarkable punitive turn against the political opponents of a liberal democratic state in twenty-first-century Europe. It uses Michel Foucault’s analysis as a point of departure for understanding how the form of state power witnessed in Catalonia is entirely consistent with a Westphalian fixation with the indissoluble unity of statehood. Moreover, we identify a classic dual strategy of criminalization and depoliticization that will be familiar to critical students of the criminal justice system. The form of justice resorted to by the postfascist Spanish state is one that seeks to replace politics with law; to impose a kind of legalized violence that is at the same time a proxy for war and a proxy for politics. yet, in the process of presenting state repression as having only legal – rather than social or political content – all the Spanish state can do is repack age this political struggle in a form that reflects the war-making origins of the state. We argue, therefore, that in the Catalan case, as in countless other political conflicts, the autonomy of the political realm is a fallacy: the political realm cannot hide its violent origins…(read more)

State Crime Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2020)