Mutualismo y capital social. El papel de la federación de mutualidades de Cataluña, 1896-1936

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


In the present work, the theoretical framework of social capital is applied to the study of worker’s mutualism in Spain during the first third of the twentieth century, when it reached its peak and its decline. Some approaches are used: the expansionist, focused on the capacity of social networks to build trust and facilitate collective action and the meso, which highlights the resources flowing within networks. Depending on structural and relational factors (size, verticality and horizontality, social homogeneity, geographical proximity), their ability to generate trust and reciprocity and to facilitate access to resources is analyzed. The evolution of the different categories of mutual aid societies is explored, classifying them as three: democratic, assistential, and bureaucratic. Democratic societies are characterized by small size, horizontal, self-managed and self-financed. The assistential ones were vertical, favored financially by notables of a superior social class. Finally, the bureaucratic ones were vertical and with a more technical operation, in which the social capital was less relevant. The criteria for determining the category of a given society are pointed out, which enables a more in-depth study of the institutional development of Spanish mutualism. Next, we analyze the decline of democratic societies (determinants for the development of social capital) in favor of bureaucratics, using a case study on the province of Barcelona during the first third of the twentieth century. Based on the hypothesis that the structural and relational factors conditioned the functioning of mutual aid societies as institutions of corporate collective action, their evolution is reconstructed through the study of variables such as size or composition of expenditures, complements the explanations based on the effects of competition or on the role of the State. It is determined that democratic mutual societies fulfilled the conditions facilitating institutional sustainability, but their status as insurance companies generated contradictions that were detrimental. Examination of compliance with these conditions makes it possible to estimate the transformation of worker’s mutualism in the province and the role played by exogenous factors (public intervention, social and economic changes and competition in the social welfare market). Because of their insurer purpose, mutual aid societies are a kind of associations suitable for reviewing the existence of the crowding-out effect between welfare state and social capital. Although in the Spanish case such an effect ended up, this should be qualified, since when public social insurances supposed a real competition for mutualism, it had already undergone a process of concentration and professionalization and democratic mutualities had been relegated by bureaucratic. After that, the overall evolution of the Federation of Mutualities of Catalonia between 1896 and 1936 is studied, which is also useful to estimate the evolution of mutualism through its composition. Through initiatives, the Federation allowed its member mutualities to combine the advantages of a small size (building trust and reciprocity, reducing supervision costs) with access to the resources of a larger network. It analyzes the services made available to the member societies, the activities carried out or the relations with other institutions, paying attention to the effects of their initiatives on social capital. In short, this thesis implies a revision of the evolution of workers' mutualism through the framework of social capital, which offers new expectations for its study.
Date of Award22 Sept 2017
Original languageSpanish
SupervisorJosep Pujol Andreu (Director) & Jordi Planas Maresma (Director)


  • Mutalism
  • Associationism

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