The concept of State is the first to appear in the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Those who used it surely could not have guessed then that they were referring to a reality in full transformation. In line with classical political thought and the etymology of concepts, they would think they were appealing to something static, stable, but in fact there has been nothing more changeable than it. They did not imagine that something that seemed solid and covered with unquestioned prestige was soon going to undergo a series of resistance tests that were going to profoundly transform it, both in its internal format and in relation to Europe and the global world.
Let's start with the internal transformation of the State. The traditional opposition between State and society very soon manifested itself as politically useless. Their verticality and centralism (if only by default, a bias that has tried to assert itself even in the autonomous State) was soon challenged both by the neoliberal assault and by the restructuring of a composite State, in which they very soon revealed themselves. the tensions that were not resolved with the lack of definition of Title Eight.
While neoliberal deregulation has been largely discredited by the new social democratic moment we are experiencing, among other things, as a result of the pandemic, the construction of a true polycentric State remains a pending task.
In this dimension, State is a term that no longer refers to anything stable, indisputable or definitive, but designates a task and a debate, a form of organization of political society that requires the consent of citizens and has no other legitimation procedure, which should be thought of less in terms of national sovereignty and more as popular sovereignty.
Our great challenge in this regard continues to be how to articulate civic consent in circumstances completely different from those of 1978. We must move from a distribution of territorial power conceived as the assignment of administrative powers to a post-sovereign conception of power, as recognition and pact, something that is incompatible with the old idea of “transfer”, of radiality, subordination and supremacy.
Calls to unity, softened by appeals to diversity, are nothing more than ritual formulas that seem to have not taken into account the growing pluralism of our society. Everything that is currently produced in terms of unity will only be done through the recognition of difference. And when I talk about respect for pluralism, I am referring to both the State as a whole and what exists within each of its communities.
The other factor that has destabilized what was intended to be a sovereign State is initially exogenous: European integration and globalization. The current environments of interdependence, reciprocal conditioning and shared sovereignty were not foreseeable at the end of the 1970s. The entry of the Spanish State into Europe occurred in 1982 and coincides in time with the intensification of that phenomenon we call globalization.
Since then it has become more evident that states, considered in isolation, are overwhelmed by interdependent public goods that they are not capable of safeguarding and by shared risks that do not respect the delimitations of their sovereignty. Phenomena such as economic instability, global public health or the climate crisis are forcing numerous decision-making matters to be decoupled from the space of state responsibility. Global institutions try precisely to correct this new incongruity between social spaces and political spaces. Our participation in these institutions implies, in fact, an acceptance of the new rules of the game of shared sovereignty.
This overcoming of the old autarky is even more evident in the European Union. Unlike international institutions, the EU does not derive all its legitimacy from the member states, but from an emergent property from which a singular community of destiny and interests has emerged with its own logic (without configuring a demos in the strict sense). . When it is said that states have gone from being nation states to member states (Bickerton), this transformation is alluded to. It is true that the EU emerged to create a framework for action thanks to which European states could face the demands of a globalized economy. The Union would provide what the states could no longer secure, and thus save the states (Milward). But this salvation has only been achieved by radically modifying the framework defined by the states, which have ceased to be fully sovereign actors.
These new realities are not so much demanding a constitutional reform as a conceptual change; We have to think in a different way about things that in fact already work in a different way and give them a new legitimacy in accordance with their real functioning. The State of the Constitution must resemble the state of reality as much as possible.