*Maeztu, Ramiro de

Ramiro de Maeztu

Ramiro de Maeztu



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Maeztu, Ramiro de

Spanish, 1874–1936
The life, work, and death of Ramiro de Maeztu, a member of the Generation of ’98, are emblematic of the Spanish tragedy of the 1930s and of the European political radicalism of the decades between the two World Wars. Albeit author of a collection of romantic poems, a novel, and a play, Maeztu is best remembered in the history of Spanish literature for his journalistic essays, of which there are several thousand. His four most important books are comprised mainly of selections from his sociological essays and literary essays.
The political and literary ideas of his works of maturity, as well as the circumstances of his death—at the hands of leftwing militants in 1936—rendered Maeztu a source of inspiration and propaganda for the official ideology of the Franco regime. He is best known in the English-speaking world, however, for his book Authority, Liberty and Function in the Light of War (1916), published in London and mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in the section devoted to Guild Socialism, together with Bertrand Russell and G.D.H.Cole.
A passionate speaker and polemicist, Maeztu published Hacia otra España (Toward a new Spain) in 1899, one year following the country’s loss of its last colonies, Cuba and the Philippines. Most of the essays in the book discuss this disaster and present an analysis—in part lucid, in part impressionistic—of the causes of the loss. This work is representative of Maeztu as a member of the Generation of ‘98, whose proponents (Unamuno, Baroja, Azorín, Machado), shared the regenerationist and existential impulses which caused the Spanish defeat (by the United States) in 1898. In Hacia otra España he accuses the nation’s intelligentsia, and in particular the media, of insensitivity to the national crisis; according to Maeztu the press not only ignored Spain’s spiritual misery, but also contributed to its decadence through its excessive attention to bullfights, comedies, gossip, and all kinds of banality. Maeztu concentrates on regenerationist themes, arguing against the old aristocratic distaste for commerce and manual labor, and defending a capitalist creation of wealth followed by socialist distribution. His social critique, as we can see, lies more in the diagnosis of problems than in their solutions.

Caricatura de Ramiro de Maeztu

Caricatura de Ramiro de Maeztu

In 1905 Maeztu moved to London as a press correspondent interested in the union ideas then in vogue. This interest led to his second collection of essays, the abovementioned Authority, Liberty and Function, which later appeared in Spanish as La crisis del humanismo. The book became an ideological bridge between his regenerationist phase and his final period of borderline fascism. In it he depicts the spiritual crisis of the Spanish writer who experienced an intensification of his Catholicism. From a nearly
theocratic point of view, Maeztu analyzes the historical evolution of Renaissance humanism which, in his opinion, erroneously assumed man to be the “measure of all things” and thereby established the basis of the bureaucratic state. Such a state legitimizes its existence by means of a false premise: the naive idea that men are capable of accomplishing the best for themselves, without consideration of their “fallen” moral condition. Modern bureaucracy tends to feed itself and perpetuate the abuse of power delegated by the people. To fight the corruption of the radically secular, capitalist, or Marxist state, he proposes the creation of a system based on trade unions, which follows its own independent and professional hierarchies. Professional excellence would be—as in the Middle Ages—rewarded by means of an autonomous and hierarchical structure, rendering unnecessary any governmental mediation. Here Maeztu contributes to the sustaining ideology of Spanish fascism, both the most militant and idealist of the pre-Civil War era and the “National Catholicism” of the Franco dictatorship.
Of his third and most politically active phase which followed his return to Spain in 1919, two books are significant: Don Quijote, Don Juan y la Celestina (1926) and Defensa de la Hispanidad (1934; In defense of Hispanism). In the first, he claimed that Don Quixote represents the ideal of love, Don Juan the ideal of power, and the Celestina that of wisdom. But none of the three figures can be deemed complete because they lack what the other two have. Although Don Quixote is the most moral of the three, his love is ineffective because of his lack of wisdom and power. In Defensa de la Hispanidad, Maeztu’s most original and mature work, he makes the claim that the moral and economic collapse of the Western powers and the Soviet Union following World War I clearly implicate the peoples of Hispanic language and culture as the moral reserve of the West. Spain’s historical task thus consists of an acceptance of this type of “manifest destiny” and a resumption of its role as bearer of Christianity and civilization to both the decadent capitalist world and the brutal communist dictatorships.
Ramiro de Maeztu is indispensable to our understanding of the peculiarities of Iberian fascism, in both its nonracist character and its Catholic underpinnings. On the other hand, Maeztu’s thought contains elements characteristic of AngloSaxon culture (efficiency, work ethic), which are the result both of his family background (his mother was English) and of his residency in England and his visits to the U.S.


Ramiro de Maeztu y Whitney. Born 4 May 1874 in Vitoria. Lived briefly in Paris, 1890– 91, then joined his father in Cuba as administrator on his family’s plantation. Upon death of his father, 1895, he returned to Spain (Bilbao) to live with his mother. Wrote for El Parvenir Vascongado (The Basque future), Bilbao, then moved to Madrid, 1897, and wrote for various newspapers and journals. Member of the Generation of 1898. Foreign correspondent in London, 1905–19, reporting from the Allied Front during World War I.Married Alice Mabel Hill, 1916: one son. Returned to Spain, 1919. Columnist, El Sol, from 1919. Became increasingly involved in activities of the extreme right. Ambassador to Argentina, 1927–30. Founder, Acción Española (Spanish action) fascist journal.
Elected representative to Spanish Parliament, 1934. Elected to the Spanish Royal Academy, 1935. Refused to take advantage of connections and flee Spain at the onset of Civil War; jailed by Republican militia. Executed 29 October 1936.

Selected Writings
Essays and Related Prose
Hacia otra España, 1899
Authority, Liberty and Function in the Light of War, 1916; revised edition, as La crisis del humanismo, 1920
Don Quijote, Don Juan y la Celestina: Ensayos en simpatía, 1926
Defensa de la Hispanidad, 1934
La brevedad de la vida en nuestra poesía lírica, 1935
En vísperas de la tragedia, 1941
España y Europa, 1947
Ensayos, 1948
Frente a la República (articles published in ABC, 1931–36), edited by Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora, 1956
Liquidación de la monarquía parlamentaria, 1957
El nuevo tradicionalismo y la revolución social, 1959
Don Quijote o el amor: Ensayos en simpatía, 1964
Artículos periodísticos, 1975
Artículos desconocidos, 1897–1904, edited by E.Inman Fox, 1977
Liberalismo y socialismo: Textos fabianos, 1909–1911, 1984

Other writings: a novel, a play, poetry, and an autobiography.
Collected works edition: Obras completas, edited by Vicente Marrero, 1974.

Further Reading
Bancroft, Robert, “América en la obra de Ramiro de Maeztu,” Revista Hispánica Moderna 13 (1947):236–49
Díaz-Plaja, Guillermo, Modernismo frente a Noventa y ocho, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 2nd edition, 1966
Fox, E.Inman, “Ramiro de Maeztu y los intelectuales,” Revista de Occidente 51 (1957):369–77
Gómez Martínez, José Luis, “Ramiro de Maeztu, el hombre y su ideal,” Abside 38 (1974):196–201
González Cuevas, Pedro Carlos, “Ramiro de Maeztu frente a la segúnda república,” Historia 16 (1987):19–26
Lida, Clara, “Literatura anarquista y anarquismo literario,” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 19 (1970):360–81
Marrero Suarez, Vicente, Maeztu, Madrid: Rialp, 1955
Marrero Suarez, Vicente, “Maeztu y el socialismo español,” Razón y Fe 6 (1986):277–90
Nozick, Martin, “An Examination of Ramiro de Maeztu,” PMLA 69, no. 4 (pt. 1) (1954):719–40
Rocamora, Pedro, “Ramiro de Maeztu y la generación del ‘98,” Arbor 341 (1974):7–22
Santervás, Rafael, “Maeztu y Ortega: Dos formas de Regeneracionismo: El poder y la ciencia,” Revista de Occidente 96 (1989):80–102
Sisto, David, “A Note on the Philosophy of Ramiro de Maeztu,” Hispania 41 (1958):457–59
Sobejano, Gonzalo, Nietzsche en España, Madrid: Gredos, 1967
Tellechea, J.Ignacio, and Laureano Robles, “Tres cartas de Maeztu a Miguel de Unamuno,” Cuadernos Salamantinos de Filosofía 17 (1990):559–91

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