Muted Vibrancy and the Invisible Politics of Religion: Catholic Third Sector, Economic Crisis, and Territorial Welfare in Spain

  • Xabier Itçaina
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Religion, Politics, and Policy book series (PSRPP)


This chapter focuses on the role of religious (i.e., Catholic) actors in the social economy and welfare at the local level to stress the discrete, but effective, and not necessarily conflictive, interactions between religious institutions, policy makers, and politics. More specifically, the involvement of religious actors in the social field, beyond their charity-oriented activity, extends to the solidarity economy (microcredit, ethical trade, hospitality for migrants, etc.). These articulations between charity and solidarity generate new interplays between religious organizations, social movements, and policy makers. In Spain, the 2008 economic crisis constituted, for Catholic organizations, both an opportunity (for the legitimation of their ethical views on the regulations of capitalism) and a constraint (with the decrease of public and private resources). Religious organizations were given a new role—frequently by default—in the local welfare and socioeconomic regimes, anticipating and substituting public authorities as well as market-oriented actors. This chapter covers Spain as a whole, but also includes an empirical case-study focused on the Spanish Basque Country, a region characterized by a strong presence of social capital, a highly decentralized welfare system, a very secularized society, and the special vibrancy of the Catholic networks working in the social field.



The author thanks Paul Christopher Manuel and Miguel Glatzer for their invitation, and Mike Fay, Paul Christopher Manuel, and Heather Dubnick for their help in translating this chapter. Part of this work originated in a two-year stay at the European University Institute in Florence (2012–2013), with the support of the European Commission under a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xabier Itçaina
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BordeauxSciences Po Bordeaux, CNRS, Centre Emile DurkheimBordeauxFrance

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