Development and crisis of the workers’mutualism in Spain during the 20th century: A new approach from the social capital

Fernando Largo Jiménez, Josep Pujol-Andreu

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1 Citation (Scopus)


© Scripta Nova, 2016. To better understand the development of mutual aid societies, Sociedades de Socorros Mutuos (SSM), among Spanish workers in the 20th century, we propose new references on this issue and we analyze this process from the perspective of social capital. Our analysis confirms the late and limited development of this form of association in Spain, and contributes then to a better understanding of the slow pace of social development in Spain after the end of the Ancien Regime. The article also explores new evidences for the decline and transformation of mutual aid societies in the early 20th century and examines the causes and consequences of these changes. These decline and transformations can be associated with three groups of factors: the structure and mode of operation of mutual aid societies; the economic precariousness of some of these associations; and the competition posed by insurance companies and other social organizations. In order to compete and try to remain active, the SSMs were forced to grow in size and reach out to an ever-wider proportion of the population, both in social and geographical terms. These changes eroded the ties of reciprocity, and their management become more professionalized (the paradox of collective action). As a result, autonomous SSMs lost the prominent role that they had in the 19th century, and their place was occupied by a new kind of mutual aid organizations, more bureaucratic in nature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number540
JournalScripta Nova
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2016


  • Europe
  • Social capital
  • Social history
  • Spain
  • Workers’ mutual aid societies


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