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Modernity and Hybridity: Nature, Regeneracionismo, and the Production of the Spanish

Waterscape, 1890-1930
Author(s): Erik Swyngedouw
Source: Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 89, No. 3 (Sep., 1999), pp.
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American Geographers
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Modernity and Hybridity:
Nature, Regeneracionismo, and the
Production of the Spanish Waterscape,
Erik Swyngedouw

School of Geography, Oxford University

Spain is arguably the European country where the water crisis has become most acute in recent
years. The political and ecological importance of water is not, however, only a recent development
in Spain. Throughout this century, water politics, economics, culture, and engineering have infused
and embodied the myriad tensions and conflicts that drove and still drive Spanish society. And
although the significance of water on the Iberian peninsula has attracted considerable scholarly and
other attention, the central role of water politics, water culture, and water engineering in shaping
Spanish society on the one hand, and the contemporary water geography and ecology of Spain as
the product of centuries of socioecological interaction on the other, have remained largely unex-
plored. The hybrid character of the water landscape, or "waterscape," comes to the fore in Spain in
a clear and unambiguous manner. The socionatural production of Spanish society can be illustrated
by excavating the central role of water politics and engineering in Spain's modernization process.
In the first part of the paper, I develop a theoretical and methodological perspective that is explicitly
critical of traditional approaches in water-resources studies, which tend to separate various aspects
of the hydrological cycle into discrete and independent objects of study. My perspective, broadly
situated within the political ecology tradition, draws critically from recent work by ecological
historians, cultural critics, sociologists of science, critical social theorists, and political economists.
My main objective is to bring together what has been severed for too long by insisting that nature
and society are deeply intertwined. In the second part of the paper, I excavate the origins of Spain's
early-twentieth-century modernization process (1890-1930) as expressed in debates and actions
around the hydrological condition. The conceptual framework presented in the first part helps
structure a narrative that weaves water through the network of socionatural relations in ways that
permit the recasting of modernity as a deeply geographical, although by no means coherent,
homogeneous, total, or uncontested project. In sum, I seek to document how the socionatural is
historically produced to generate a particular, but inherently dynamic, geographical configuration.
Key Words: modernity, nature and society, political ecology, Spain, water resources.

I am planning something geographical. (Klaus Kinski, But dry sterile thunder without rain
the film Fitzcarraldo, directed by Werner Herzog) There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
Here is no water but only rock From doors of mudcracked houses
Rock and no water and the sandy road If there were water
The road winding above among the mountains (From: T S. Eliot, The Waste Land)
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink The Hydraulic ordering of the territory constitutes
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think a structural necessity of Spanish society as an indus-
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand trial society (Ortif 1984:1 1) .1
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit Spain is arguably the European country
Here one can neither stand not lie nor sit where the water crisis has become most
There is not even silence in the mountains IL acute in recent years. Since 1975, demand

Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 89(3), 1999, pp. 443-465

(C 1999 by Association of American Geographers
Published by Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JF, UK.

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444 Swyngedouw

for water has systematically outstripped supply hand, and the contemporary water geography
and, despite major and unsustainable attempts to and ecology of Spain as the product of centuries
increase pumping of ground water and to develop of socioecological interaction on the other, have
a more intensive use of surface water, the problem remained largely unexplored. Yet very little, if
has intensified significantly. The recent anything, in today's Spanish social, economic,
1991-1995 drought, which affected most of Cen- and ecological landscape can be understood with-
tral and Southern Spain, spearheaded intense out explicit reference to the changing position of
political debate, particularly as the cyclical resur- water in the unfolding of Spanish society. The
gence of diminished water supply from rainwater hybrid character of the water landscape, or
coincided with the preparation (since 1985) of "waterscape," comes to the fore in Spain in a clear
the Second National Hydrological Plan (MOPT and unambiguous manner. Hardly any river basin,
1993; Ruiz 1993; Gomez Mendoza and del Moral hydrological cycle, or water flow has not been
Ituarte 1995; del Moral Ituarte 1996). subjected to some form of human intervention or
The political and ecological importance of use; not a single form of social change can be
water is not, however, only a recent development understood without simultaneously addressing
in Spain. Throughout this century, water politics, and understanding the transformations of and in
economics, culture, and engineering have infused the hydrological process. The socionatural pro-
and embodied the myriad tensions and conflicts duction of Spanish society, I maintain, can be
that drove and still drive Spanish society. And illustrated by excavating the central role of water
although the significance of water on the Iberian politics and engineering in Spain's modernization
peninsula (see Figure 1) has attracted consider- process.
able scholarly and other attention, the central I intend to situate the political-ecological proc-
role of water politics, water culture, and water esses around water in Spain in the context of what
engineering in shaping Spanish society on the one Neil Smith (1984) defined as "the production of

Atlantic Ocean 0 50 100 150km

ST'IAS Santander
ASU RlA .~''PAlS R F I?
Santiago deOviedo *:-CANTABRIA: VAC ANC
Compostela P n... a.l: Pam.EN,
* ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~Vitoria, ~ *
GALICIA NAVARRA * ' . .._**:3
t _ . t - *. R I O J.~~~~~~ A A L . .N
* Zaragoza:
Valladolid ARAGON arcelona


Toledo Palma de
CASTILLA Valencia Mallorca

murci&- ~ Sea

) \ . ~~~~~A N D A L U S I A *-

......... Boundary of autonomous

* Capital city

Figure 1. The Iberian Peninsula, Spain, and its Autonomous Regions.

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Modernity and Hybridity 445

nature." In particular, I shall argue that the tu- ernization process (1890-1930) as expressed in
multuous process of modernization in Spain and debates and actions around the hydrological con-
its contemporary condition, both in environ- dition. The conceptual framework presented in
mental and political-economic terms, are the first part helps structure a narrative that
wrought from historical spatial-ecological trans- weaves water through the network of socionatu-
formations. Modernization in Spain was a decid- ral relations in ways that permit the recasting of
edly geographical project that became expressed modernity as a deeply geographical, although by
in and through the intense spatial transformation no means coherent, homogeneous, total, or un-
of Spain in this century. This transformation is contested, project. If the social and the natural
one in which water and the waterscape play a cannot be severed, but are intertwined in per-
pivotal role. The contradictions and tensions in- petually changing ways in the production proc-
herent in the process that is commonly referred esses of both society and the physical
to as "modernization" are, I maintain, expressed environment, then the rather opaque idea of "the
by and worked through the transformation of production of nature" may become clearer. In
nature and society. The "modern" environment sum, I seek to document how the socionatural is
and waterscape in Spain is what Latour (1993) historically produced to generate a particular, but
would refer to as a "hybrid," a thing-like appear- inherently dynamic, geographical configuration.
ance (a "permanence" as Harvey [1996] would
call it) that is part natural and part social, and
that embodies a multiplicity of historical-geo- On Hybrids and Socionature:
graphical relations and processes.
Flow, Process, and Dialectics
The main portion of the paper is divided into
two parts. In the first, I develop a theoretical and Contemporary scholars increasingly recognize
methodological perspective that is explicitly criti- that natural or ecological conditions and proc-
cal of traditional approaches in water-resources esses do not operate separately from social proc-
studies, which tend to separate various aspects of esses, and that the actually existing socionatural
the hydrological cycle into discrete and inde- conditions are always the result of intricate trans-
pendent objects of study. The traditional hydro- formations of preexisting configurations that are
logical, engineering, geographical, political, themselves inherently natural and social. For ex-
sociological, economic, and cultural perspectives ample, David Harvey (1996) insists that there is
on water have produced a piecemeal perspective nothing particularly unnatural about New York
that maintains a particular water ideology, one City. Urban areas, regions, or any other outcome
that is increasingly less able to contribute in crea- of sociospatial processes or conditions exist in a
tive and innovative ways to the mitigation of network of interwoven processes that are simul-
growing problems associated with contemporary taneously human, natural, material, cultural, me-
water practices (Ward 1997).2 My perspective, chanical, and organic. The myriad processes that
broadly situated within the political ecology tra- support and maintain social life, such as, for ex-
dition, draws critically from recent work by eco- ample, water, energy, food, or computers, always
logical historians, cultural critics, sociologists of combine society and nature in infinite ways; yet
science, critical social theorists, and political simultaneously, these hybrid socionatural
economists. Although researchers working "things" are full of contradictions, tensions, and
within mainstream perspectives pay lip service to conflicts. They are proliferating objects that
considering the hydrological cycle as a complex, Donna Haraway calls "cyborgs" (Haraway 1991)
multifaceted, and global network, one that in- or that Bruno Latour refers to as "quasi-objects"
cludes physical as well as human elements, they (Latour 1993); these hybrid, part social/part
rarely overcome the dualisms of the nature/society natural-yet deeply historical and thus
divide, and they continue to isolate parts from the produced-objects/subjects are intermediaries
totality (see, for a review, Castree 1995; Demeritt that embody and express nature and society and
1994; Gerber 1997). My main objective is to bring weave networks of infinite liminal spaces. For
together what has been severed for too long by example, if I were to capture some water in a cup
insisting that nature and society are deeply and excavate the networks that brought it there,
intertwined. "I would pass with continuity from the local to the
In the second part of the paper, I excavate the global, from the human to the nonhuman" (La-
origins of Spain's early-twentieth-century mod- tour 1993:121). These flows would narrate many

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446 Swyngedouw

interrelated tales, or stories, of social groups and in the last instance" (Althusser 1965) the produc-
classes and the powerful socioecological proc- tion process. This might easily lead to the illusion
esses that produce social spaces of privilege and that all processes-in-nature are subsumed under
exclusion, of participation and marginality; social control and, consequently, to the view of a
chemical, physical, and biological reactions and manageable and subordinated primordial and ex-
transformations, the global hydrological cycle, ternal nature whose metabolism remains outside
and global warming; capital, machinations, and social and discursive formations. In this view,
the strategies and knowledges of dam builders, nature itself belongs to the pure domain of the
urban land developers, and engineers; the pas- natural and becomes tainted and transformed by
sage from river to urban reservoir, and the geo- the social. The social and the natural may have
political struggles between regions and nations. been brought together and made historical and
In sum, water embodies multiple tales of socio- geographical by Marx, but he did so in ways that
nature as hybrid. The rhizome of underground kept both as a priori separate domains. The net-
and surface water flows and the streams, pipes, works that constitute and the processes that
and canals that come together in water gushing produce socionatural hybrids are left unrecon-
from fountains, taps, and irrigation channels is structed when the social and the natural are seen
a powerful metaphor for a deeply intercon- as two contradictory, yet complementary, poles
nected socionature.3 that construct a reality.
The excavation of the production of these I would argue, with Latour (1993), that the
hybrid networks and their proliferation with the process of separating and purifying things natural
intensification of the modernization process en- and social resides in the conceptual and discur-
tails a constructionist view in both a material and sive construction of the world into two separate,
discursive sense. In both the Grundrisse and Capi- but profoundly interrelated realms-nature and
tal, Marx insisted on the natural foundations of society-between which a dialectical relation-
social development. Any materialist approach ship unfolds. The debate, then, becomes a dispute
necessarily adheres to a perspective that insists about the nature of this dialectical relationship,
that nature is an integral part of the metabolism its implications, and the absence or presence of
of social life. Social relations operate in and an ontological foundation from which nature and
through metabolizing the natural environment the social are distinguished and distinguishable.
which, in turn, transforms both society and na- This form of dialectical argumentation runs as
ture and produces altered or new socionatural follows. Humans encounter nature, with its inter-
forms (see Grundman 1991; Benton 1996). nal dynamics, principles, and laws, embedded in
While "Nature" (as a historical product) provides a society with its own organizing principles. This
the foundation, social relations produce nature's encounter inflicts consequences on both. The
and society's history. Of course, the ambition of dialectic between nature and society becomes an
classical Marxism was wider than reconstructing external one, that is, a recursive relationship be-
the dialectics of historical socionatural transfor- tween two separate fields, nature and society,
mations and their contradictions. It also insisted which is mediated by material, ideological, and
on the ideological notion of "nature" in bourgeois representational practices. The product, then, is
science and society, just as it claimed to uncover the thing (object or subject) that is produced out
"Truth" through the excavation of underlying of this dynamic encounter.
socioecological processes (Schmidt 1971; Benton Neil Smith (1984, 1996), in contrast, insists
1989). By concentrating on the labor process per that nature is an integral part of the process of
se, however, many Marxist analysts tended to production or, in other words, that society and
replicate the very problem they meant to criticize. nature are integral to each other and produce
In particular, by rendering nature as the substra- permanencies (or thing-like moments) in their
tum for the unfolding of social relations, espe- unity. The notion of "the production of nature,"
cially labor relations, they maintained the borrowed and reinterpreted from Lefebvre
material basis for social life, while relegating natu- (1991), suggests that socionature itself is a
ral processes to a realm outside of social life and, historical-geographical process (and therefore
hence, outside history. time/place-specific). It insists on the inseparabil-
Out of this theorization arises an interesting ity of society and nature and maintains the unity
paradox. Insisting on the "social production of of socionature as a process. In brief, both society
nature" suggests that social relations "determine and nature are produced, and are hence malleable,

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Modernity and Hybridity 447

transformable, and potentially transgressive. chemical, physical, social, economic, political,

Smith does not suggest that all nonhuman proc- and cultural processes in highly contradictory but
esses are socially produced, although he insists inseparable manners. Every body and thing is a
that all nature, including social nature, is a mediator, part social, part natural (but without
historical-geographical process (see also Levins discrete boundaries), which internalizes the mul-
and Lewontin 1985; Lewontin 1993). He argues tiple contradictory relations that redefine and
instead that the idea of some sort of pristine rework every body and thing.
nature ("First Nature" in Lefebvre's account) be- For Lefebvre, capturing space or socionature
comes increasingly problematic as new "nature" from a dialectical and emancipatory perspective
(in the sense of different forms of "nature") is implies constructing multiple narratives that re-
produced over space and time. It is this historical- late material, representational, and symbolic
geographical process that led Haraway and La- practices, each of which has a series of particular
tour to argue that the number of hybrids and characteristics that internalizes the dialectical re-
quasi-objects proliferates and multiplies. Indeed, lations defined by the other domains, but none of
from the very beginning of human history, but which can be reduced to the other (Lefebvre
accelerating as the modernization process inten- 1991). In short, Lefebvre's triad opens up an
sified, the objects and subjects of daily life became avenue for inquiry that insists on the materiality
increasingly more socionatural. of each of the component elements, but whose
Consider, as examples of this intensification, content can be approached only through the
the socioecological transformations of entire eco- excavation of the metabolism of their becomings,
logical systems (through agriculture, for exam- in which the internal relations are the signifying
ple), the sand and clay metabolized into concrete and producing mechanisms. Put simply, Lefebvre
buildings through the labor process, the accelera- insists on the ontological priority of process and
tion and ever- expanding socioecological foot- flux that become interiorized in each of the mo-
print of the urbanization process, or the contested ments (lived, perceived, conceived) of the pro-
production of new genomes (such as Onco- duction process, but always in a fleeting, dynamic,
mousetm [Haraway 1997]). Of course, the pro- and transgressive manner. Whether we discuss
duction process of socionature embodies both the global hydrological cycle or the symbolic
material processes and the proliferating discur- meanings of nature to city folks, it is the stories of
sive and symbolic representations of nature. As the process of their perpetual reworking that
Lefebvre (1991) insisted, the production of na- broach their being part of a process of continuous
ture transcends material conditions and proc- transformation in which the stories themselves
esses; it is also related to the production of will subsequently take part. Following the maze
discourses of nature (by scientists, engineers, and of socionature's networks-as Latour (1993) sug-
the like) on the one hand, and to powerful images, gests we do-is not good enough if stripped from
symbols, and discourses on nature (virginity, a the process of their historical-geographical pro-
moral code, originality, survival of the fittest, duction (see Escobar 1999). Hybridization is a
wilderness, etc.) through which Nature becomes process of production, of becoming, of perpetual
represented, on the other. transgression. Lefebvre's insistence on temporal-
If we maintain a view of dialectics as internal ity(ies), combined with Latour's networked
relations (Olman 1993; Balibar 1995; Harvey (re)construction of quasi-objects, provides a
1996) as opposed to external recursive relation- glimpse of how such a research program might be
ships, then we must insist on the need to tran- practiced.
scend the binary formations of nature and society Figure 2 summarizes this argument. None of
and develop a new language that maintains the the component parts is reducible to the other, yet
dialectical unity of the process of change as em- their constitution arises from the multiple dialec-
bodied in the thing itself. "Things" are hybrids or tical relations that swirl out from the production
quasi-objects (subjects and objects, material and process itself. Consequently, the parts are always
discursive, natural and social) from the very be- implicated in the constitution of the "thing" and
ginning. By this, I mean that the "world" is a are never outside the process of its making. In
process of perpetual metabolism in which social sum, then, the above perspective is a process-
and natural processes combine in a historical- based episteme in which nothing is ever fixed or,
geographical production process of socionature, at best, fixity is the transient moment; nothing can
whose outcome (historical nature) embodies be captured in its entirety as the flows perpetually

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448 Swyngedouw









Figure 2. Hybridization: the production of socionature.

destroy and create, combine and separate. This as the process of becoming and of hybridization
particular dialectical perspective also insists on has ontological and epistemological priority.
the nonneutrality of relations in terms of both * Third, as every quasi-object/cyborg/hybrid in-
their operation and their outcome, thereby poli- ternalizes the multiple relations of its produc-
ticizing both processes and fluxes. It also sees tion, "any-thing" can be entered as the starting
distinct categories (nature, society, city, species, point for undertaking the archaeology of
water, etc.) as the outcome of the infusion of her/his/its socionatural metabolism (the pro-
materially discursive practices that are, each duction of her/his/its socionature).
time, creatively destroyed in the very production * Fourth, this archaeology has always already
of socionature. begun and is never-ending (cf., Althusser's
It is, of course, this perspective that Harvey infamous "history as a process without a sub-
(1996) insists on as the epistemological entry into ject"), and is therefore always open, contested,
the excavation of the political ecology of capital- and contestable.
ism. A number of analytical tools arising from this
* Fifth, given the nonneutrality and intensely pow-
formulation are useful for the political- ecological
erful forces through which socionature is pro-
study of water.
duced, this perspective does not necessarily lead
* First, although we cannot escape the "thing," to a relativist position. Every archaeology and
transformative knowledges about water and associated narratives and practices are always
the waterscape can only be gauged from recon- implicated in and consequential to this very pro-
structing their processes of production. duction process. Knowledge and practice are
* Second, there is no "thing-like" ontological or always situated in the web of social power rela-
essential foundation (society, nature, or text), tions that defines and produces socionature.

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Modernity and Hybridity 449

* Sixth, the notion of a socionatural production dialectics of modernization, as expressed in

transcends the binary distinctions between Spain's hydropolitics, will be documented with an
society/nature, material/ideological, and eye toward identifying the relationship between
real/discursive. the process of producing a "new" nature and the
ebb and flows of dominant political-economic
While it is difficult to reconstruct the produc- relations. Multiple narratives that move around
tion processes of socionatural networks along the the spiral presented in Figure 2 will be woven
lines presented above, I would maintain that such together to reconstruct the relations of power
a perspective has profound implications for un- inscribed in the discursive, ideological, cultural,
derstanding the relationship between capitalism, material, and scientific practices through which
modernity, environment, space, and contempo- the Spanish waterscape became constructed and
rary social life. It also has implications for trans- reconstructed as a socionatural space that reflects
formative and emancipatory ecological politics. Spain's contested modernization process and the
Modernization is defined here as the still continu- relations of power inscribed therein.
ing process of perpetual change and transforma-
tion that is characterized by a series of social
power relations and mechanisms that are, among The Production of Nature: Water
others, structured through contested notions of
progress, emancipation, and "betterment." This
and Modernization in Spain
process of change and transformation unleashes
I shall not begin by analyzing the Spanish
mechanisms of creative destruction and destruc-
water map from the available hydrological data
tive creation in which "all that is solid melts into
and the physical characteristics of the water ba-
air" (Marx and Engels 1985:3). Modernity as a
sins. Such an entre would surely be important, but
process is internally deeply heterogeneous, con-
prioritizing these things would miss the central
tested and contestable, and riddled with tension
tenet of the argument outlined above. Indeed,
and conflict that operates through and alters
these very physical conditions and characteristics
society and environment in ever more complex
are not absolute, stable, and God-given charac-
and mediated ways (see Berman 1982; Harvey
teristics. On the contrary, the history of Spain's
1989, 1996; Giddens 1990; Lefebvre 1995). The
modernization has been a history of altering, re-
tumultuous and contested process of historical-
defining, and transforming these very physical
geographical transformations becomes etched
characteristics. What is more, Spain's hydrologi-
into the production of new socionatural land- cal characteristics have been infused with social
scapes. The flow of water, in its material, symbolic, practices, cultural meanings, political and eco-
political, and discursive constructions, embodies nomic ideologies, and engineering principles for
and expresses exactly how the "production of a very long time. A stroll through Granada's
nature" is both arena for and outcome of the Alhambra gardens, built by the Islamic rulers who
tumultuous reordering of socionature in ever- controlled that part of Spain until the fifteenth
changing and intricate manners. The present century, provides a particularly attractive and
Spanish waterscape and its historical-geographical material vision of how water, culture, and social
production process will be used as an entry point construction combine in and are expressed by the
to excavate this process of modernization. transformation and metabolization of the flow of
The above perspective will guide my narrative water.
on the production of the modern Spanish It was not until the late nineteenth century
waterscape at the turn of the century, when a that the socionatural production process of con-
distinct discourse and rhetoric of modernization temporary Spain accelerated. From that moment
emerged. This modernization drive, which per- onwards, Spain-belatedly, somewhat reluc-
meated the whole of Spanish society, would gen- tantly, and almost desperately-launched itself
erate the anchoring framework for key social, on a path of accelerating modernization. Of
political, cultural, and technical debates and course, modernization through socionatural
practices until the present day. The modernizing changes always takes place within already con-
desires of broad strata of Spanish society at- structed historical socionatural conditions. On
tempted to construct hegemonic, and apparently occasion, I shall refer to and highlight these con-
socially and politically progressive, visions ditions. For the present purposes, which are to
through the social production of nature. The document and substantiate the notion of the

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450 Swyngedouw

production of nature and to elaborate how Plan, the debates over the introduction of a new
Spain's modernization process became, and re- water law, and the relentless demands of cities,
mains, a deeply geographical project, it will suffice regions, and industries for ever more water are
to chart the tumultuous, contradictory, and often testimony to a continuing and ever-intensifying
very complex historical-geography of Spain's conflict and struggle over the trajectory of Spain's
modernization through water engineering. Today modernization process.
the country has almost nine hundred dams, more
than eight hundred of which have been con-
structed in this century alone (see Figure 3). Not Spain's Postcolonial Shock
a single river basin has not been altered, managed,
engineered, and transformed. Water has been an While other European imperialist countries
obsessive theme in Spain's national life during were consolidating their geographical expansion
this century, and the quest for water continues overseas at the end of the nineteenth century, the
unabated (del Moral Ituarte 1998). From the turn traditional Spanish elites found themselves in a
of the century onwards, water rapidly became a highly traumatic condition with the loss in 1898
prime consideration in national political, socio- of their last colonial possessions of Cuba, Puerto
economic, and cultural debates. Under Franco, Rico, and the Philippines after a disastrous "War
the great expansion of hydraulic infrastructures of Independence" (Carr 1983; Figuero and Santa
reshaped the hydraulic geography of Spain in Cecilia 1998; Fusi and Palafox 1998; Perez 1999).
fundamental ways. Present discussions in Spain Faced with a mounting economic crisis, growing
over the need for a new National Hydrological social tensions, a rising bourgeoisie in the North,

100 0 50 100 150kmn
50 i ~

TTA .......J.
NORTE / k ic? BRO

/0 -0 RIN

Duero 1 2 3 4 5123 4 5

C ~~~~~ ~~~~ .~~~~~" ~~~~~\ ' ~~~~~Main rivers

1d TAO 0- Hydrographic
-K----E--]/ 100 JCRConfederation
50 50-boundary
1 2 3 4 5 0-- 2 4
50 ~

1- 2 /'SEGURA


GUADL4N4I 50- Nubro
dams constructed

I ~~ '~- SUR 1 = Before 1900

100o- -------------i 2 =1900 -1935 50 U j
j j ~~~~~~~~~3 =1936 -1970 0
50T-7 4 =1971 -1986 12 3 4 5
0 -l--------~----1 5 = After 1986 Time period in history
1 2 '3 4 5

Figure 3. Evolution of dam construction in Spain for each of the Hydrographic Confederations (river basin
authorities). Data excludes Islas Canarias and Pirineo Oriental. Source: Ministerio de Obras Pulblicas y Urbanismo
(1990) Plan Hidro'logico-Sintesis de la Documentacio'n Bdsica, Direccio'n General de Obras Hidraulicas, Madrid, pp.

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Modernity and Hybridity 451

and, in the South, an antiquated and still largely admirals and generals.4 (cited in Gomez Mendoza
feudal social order that was lamenting the military 1992:233) (my emphasis)
defeat, Spanish progressive cultural, professional,
In the absence of an external geographical
political, and intellectual elites were desperately
project as the foundation to modernization,
searching for a way to revive or to "regenerate"
therefore, the Spanish modernizing elites con-
the nation's social and economic base (Ortega
centrated on a national program that would be
Cantero 1995). This drive to revive the nation's
equally geographical but founded on the radical
"spirit" became known as el regeneracionismo (Fusi
transformation of Spain's geography, and in par-
and Palafox 1998). Emerging from growing dis-
ticular, its water resources (G0mez Mendoza and
content from the 1870s onwards, regeneracion-
Ortega Cantero 1987). Thus, while imperial
ism became associated with the "Generation of
countries pursued strategies of external spatial
'98," a loose group of intellectuals that were par-
solutions, Spain was forced to revolutionize its
ticularly concerned with reviving and modern-
internal geography and to produce new geo-
izing Spain in the context of the twin dramas of
graphical configurations if it was to keep up with
internal disintegration and external imperial
its expansionist northern European rivals. As
power loss (Figuero and Santa Cecilia 1998). This
Costa argues in 1880: " [I]f in other countries it is
regeneracionism quickly became an "obsessive
sufficient for man to help Nature, here it is nec-
theme in national life" (Fernandez Almagro
essary to do more; it is necessary to create her"
1970:239), producing a rich, albeit ambiguous,
(Costa, cited in Driever 1998a:40; my emphasis).
and heterogeneous ferment from which Spain
This concern is voiced by a series of Costa's
would launch itself onto a path of modernization.
contemporaries. In particular, Lucas Mallada
The traditional elites, through their parasitic de-
(1841-1921), an engineer and geologist, had al-
pendence on colonial exploitation, had largely
ready lamented the fate of Spain and the "causes
successfully prevented or at least stalled this pro-
of the poverty of Spain's soil" (Mallada 1882; see
cess. The various regeneracionist tendencies at
also Ayala-Carcedo and Driever 1998) and advo-
the time shared a number of views: a concern with
cated a program of reworking Spain's natural-
the "decadence" of Spain, a desire to regenerate
resource base. This program of producing new
the national "spirit," and a search for a foundation
space embodied physical, social, cultural, moral,
from which to launch a national revival (see
and aesthetic elements, fusing them around the
Mallada 1890; Maclas Picavea 1899; Isern 1899;
dominant and almost hegemonic ideology of na-
Costa 1900; Ayala-Carcedo and Driever 1998).
tional development, revival, and progress.
While many of the participants centered this
revival around the mobilization of the "natural
riches and resources" of the country (Gomez
Modernization as a Geographical Project:
Mendoza 1992:233), the regeneracionism also
the Production of Space/Nature
emphasized the intellectual and moral revitaliza-
tion of the people and the associated need for
The dominant form of socioeconomic devel-
educational and scientific "progress." This pro-
opment in Spain until the late nineteenth century
gram became formulated as a military-geographic
had combined colonial trade with domestic farm-
project, which Joaquin Costa (1900), a turn-of-
ing. The latter was based on primarily southern
the-century public intellectual, summarizes as
large-estate dryland-culture by latifundistas
whose economic position depended on a protec-
The disgrace of Spain originated principally because tionist stance. The effects of increasingly liberal-
of the absence in national consciousness of the ized international trade after 1880 (Carr 1983),
vision that the internal war against drought, against combined with the loss of the last Spanish colo-
the rugged character of the soil, the rigidity of the nies in 1898, led to disastrous socioeconomic
coasts, the intellectual backwardness of the people, conditions and rapidly rising social conflicts that
the isolation from the European Centre, the absence intensified already sharp social tensions in the
of capital, was of greater importance than the war
countryside (Fontana 1975; Garrabou 1975).5
against Cuban or Filipino separatism; and because of
The traditional agricultural elites were faced with
not having been as alarmed by the former as by the
latter, and because of not having made the same the emergence of modernizing elites, both agri-
sacrifices that were made for the latter, and of not cultural and industrial, who began to challenge
having committed-sad suicide-the same stream the political-economic and ideological domi-
of gold to the engineers and scientists as to the nance of the latifundistas. The proletarianization

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452 Swyngedouw

process, combined with sharpening crisis condi- foundation for modernization permitted prog-
tions, intensified class struggle in both the city ressive elites to raise social problems (class strug-
and countryside. gle, economic decline, mass unemployment) as
Industrialization, mainly focused in Catalonia important issues without formulating them in
and in the Basque Country (Angoustures 1995), class terms. This, in turn, enabled the formation
intensified the city/countryside divide, accentu- of an initially weak, but gradually growing, coali-
ated already long-standing interregional con- tion of reformist socialists, populists, industrial-
flicts, and fed demands for greater regional ists, and enlightened agricultural elites into a
autonomy. Containing and working through hegemonic block with a modernist vision of
these tensions without revolutionary transforma- Spain's future-an alliance aimed to defeat the
tion necessitated a vision around which the mod- traditionalists and keep revolutionary socialists
ernizing social groups could ally through a project and anarchists at bay. Although coalitions, objec-
of national regeneration. This revitalization, tives, and means would change over time, the
which became formulated as a project of geo- geographical basis for modernization would re-
graphical restructuring, combined major environ- main the guiding principle for this hegemonic
mental change, socioeconomic restructuring, and vision that would become the pivot of Spain's
moral revival, all of which were linked in a regen- development until the end of the Franco regime.
eracionist ideological discourse. Driever The realization of such an ambitious project of
(1998a:37) summarizes: "Spain was portrayed as mobilizing resources and educating the people
part of a new world order in which Spaniards had demanded thorough geographical knowledge,
to interpenetrate with their natural environment though of a particular kind. As Gomez Mendoza
and geographical space in order not to perish as and Ortega Cantero (1987:80) argue, "the real
the international marketplace reordered the patriotism is the bedrock of the regeneracionist
world through economic competition." project and this patriotism flows from the exact
This national geographical project would re- knowledge of the geographical reality of the
volve around the hydrological/agricultural nexus. country" (my translation). In 1918, Rafael Al-
Spain's "geographical problem" became the axis tamira (1923:168-69), another leading intellec-
around which the sociocultural and economic tual, wrote that the description of Spain's
malaise was explained, and where the course of geography offers a great lesson in patriotism,
action resided. One of the key protagonists ar- while Azorifn dose Martinez Ruiz), a member of
ticulating this revival-through-modernization the Generation of '98, concluded in 1916 that
was Joaquin Costa (1846-1911),6 the most "the basis of patriotism is geography" (Azorifn
prominent and visible figure of the radical regen- 1982:512). In this view, the only means by which
eracionism promoted by the intellectuals. Born to solve the national problem was through the
the son of a poor peasant from Aragon, he was a problem of the land-the physical nature of the
self-educated intellectual whose influential and territory. Ricardo Macias Picavea (1895:346)
prolific writings covered politics, social reform, summarized the relationship between the need
for a scientific geography and the regeneracionist
education, and agricultural and hydraulic poli-
cies, among many other themes. His relentless
struggle against poverty and the socioeconomic To rehabilitate us, it is imperative to start with the
and political disintegration of Spain propelled rehabilitation of our land: this is an essential and
him to the forefront of the public debates at the absolute condition. And in order to restore this
time (see Ortega 1975; Carr 1983; Perez 1999). geographical environment that is our fatherland,
In 1892, he wrote that state-organized hydraulic who would deny that the first thing to be done is to
politics should be a national objective "capable of know it well and accurately? From this is the verita-
ble patriotic character with which the cultivation of
reworking the geography of the Fatherland and of
Iberian geography has to present itself to the eyes of
solving the complex agricultural and social
all the Spaniards.7
problems" (Costa 1892:88). For Costa, fusing
the production of a new geography with a revo- Even by 1930, this vision was still the primary
lutionization of the internal operation of the state leitmotiv for the regeneracionist agenda, which,
would help mitigate social tensions and provide in fact, would only materialize on a grand scale
the basis for a promodernist and popular petty- after the end of the Civil War in 1938. A new
production-based development process (Orti journal in 1930 recapitulated the great geographi-
1994). This focus on a geographical project as the cal mission of the modernizing agenda with the

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Modernity and Hybridity 453

same vigor and passion: "There is nothing more balanced economic development and prevent the
urgent for our national reconstitution than a ongoing process of proletarianization of the peasant
profound study of our geography and our soil. masses, moderating social polarization and class
This will be the seed for the great political rebirth
of Spain"8 (N 1930:29-30). This organic and antirevolutionary (in social-
This project to remake Spanish geography as class terms) reformism in which the state would
a part of modernization combined a decidedly take center stage to organize the sociospatial
political strategy, a particular ideological vision, transformation would, after the failed attempts to
a call for a scientific-positivist understanding of initiate reform during the first few decades of the
the natural world, a scientific-technocratic engi- twentieth century, provide a substratum on
neering mission, and a popular base rooted in a which the later falangist, organicist, and fascist
traditional peasant rural culture. Plenty of evi- ideology would thrive.
dence can be found for this in Costa's work and
in that of his contemporaries (for a review, see
Perez De La Dehesa 1966; Tufion De Lara 1971; Water as the Linchpin to Spain's
Orti 1976). The revolution in the state-but Modernization Drive
certainly not of the state-was effected through
a politics of spatial and environmental transfor- Los Pantanos o la Muerte! [Dams or Death!] (Perez
mation that would center around the defense of 1999:504).
the small peasant producer-cum-landowner,
If the "remaking" of Spain's geography became
communal (state) control of water, educational
the great modernizing adagio, then water and
enhancement, technical-scientific knowledge,
hydrological engineering were its master tools.
and the leap to power of an alliance of small
The study of geography centered on problems of
holders and the new bourgeoisie that hitherto had
fertility-both the lack of water and the infertility
been largely marginalized by the aristocratic lan-
of the soil. In 1903, Costa wrote that "the greatest
downing elite and their associated administrators
in the state apparatus.9 At the same time, the obstacle which prevents our country to improve
focus on restoring or, in fact, expanding land- production is the absence of humidity in the soil
ownership through "internal colonization" fos- because of insufficient or absent rainfall" (cited
tered growth in and concentrated the efforts of in Ortega 1975:37). "Rain rushing to the sea and
an "organically" organized state that brought re- taking part of the soil with it" was to be avoided
formist intellectuals, some worker movements, at all cost, a parliamentary document of 1912
and the nascent industrial bourgeoisie together in stated, repeating the already century-old claim
a more or less coherent vision of reform against (which would be heard again during the
the traditionalists (Ortega 1975). The geographi- 1992-1995 drought) that "not a single drop of
cal project became, as such, the glue around water should reach the Ocean without paying its
which often unlikely partners could coalesce, obligatory tribute to the earth" (Gomez Mendoza
while excluding both the more radical, left-wing and Ortega Cantero 1987, 1992:174). Indeed,
revolutionaries and the "radical" conservatives. the dominant view at the time was that "Spain
Surely, the sublimation of the many tensions and would never be rich as long as its rivers flowed
conflicts within this loose alliance of reformists, into the sea" (Maluquer de Motes 1983:96). The
when accomplished through a focus on reorgan- regeneracionist rhetoric assigned great symbolic
izing Spain's hydraulic geography, served the pur- value to the often repeated image of the "muti-
pose of providing a discursive vehicle to ally lating loss of the soil of the Fatherland as a con-
hitherto excluded social groups without defining sequence of the 'nature' of the pluvio-fluvial
the problem purely in class or other conflictual regime" (Gomez Mendoza 1992:240). In addi-
social terms (see Nadal Reimat 1981). As Orti tion, both the modernization and urbanization of
(1976:179) maintains: industry and the mechanization of agriculture
generated "water fever" (Vilar 1968; Maluquer de
Hydraulic politics, understood in a broad and sym-
Motes 1983:84).
bolic sense as a process of accelerated transforma-
tion of agriculture from extensive and traditional Joaquin Costa became one of the prime advo-
into modern and intense, must constitute the fun- cates and potent symbols of this broad social
damental vector of national politics. This must cata- movement for modernization through geographi-
lyze an agrarian reform, which would permit a cal restructuring. His "hydrological solution"

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454 Swyngedouw

would be the substratum for fostering growth by of national development. This project was sus-
permitting social and land reforms and encourag- tained and inspired by a reformist geographical
ing cultural emancipation (Ortega 1975). His optimism, which substituted for the social and
writings would be invoked time and time again by political pessimism of Spain's turn-of-the-century
a wide variety of social groups to defend and condition (Orti 1984:18). The hydraulic utopia
legitimize national hydraulic programs and the of abundant waters for all would not only produce
policy of land reform through "internal colonial" an "ecological harmony," but also contribute to
settlements. The regeneracionist project became the formation of a socially harmonious order. The
formulated as a "hydrological correction of the production of a new hydraulic geography would
national geographical problem" (Gomez Men- reconcile the ever-growing social tensions in the
doza 1992:236). For Costa, hydraulic politics sub- Spanish countryside, tensions that were taking
limated the totality of the nation's economic acute class forms and that resulted from the ad-
program, not only for agriculture, but for the verse and conflictual conditions of scarcity and
whole of Spanish socioeconomic life. Hydraulic inequality. According to Alfonso Ortif (1984:12),
constructions for irrigation purposes were re- the symbolic power of this material intervention
garded as a progressive alternative to the tradi- to achieve "hydraulic regeneration" constituted
tional policy of tariffs and import restrictions, "a mythical power, a collective illusion, and the
which were supported by dryland latifundistas imagined reconciliation of diverse ideologies."
(Torres Campos 1907). At base, the hydraulic This specific form of regeneration served the pro-
foundation necessitating el regeneracionismo re- ductionist logic of the new liberal bourgeoisie that
sided in the uneven distribution of rainfall and aspired to transform society and space according
the torrential and intermittent nature of Spain's to the principles of capitalist profitability. It was
fluvial system, which was said to make the coun- aimed at facilitating Spain's integration into
try "the antechamber of Africa" (de Reparez Europe's modernization process.
1906). The great modernizing drive of the reviv-
alists therefore demanded not only an imitation
and use of nature, but its creation: "[increasing] Humming to Nature's Tune: The Generation
the amount of fertile soil by making a hydraulic of '98
artery system cross the whole country-a na-
tional network of dams and irrigation channels" This hydraulic regeneracionism coincided
(Gomez Mendoza and Ortega Cantero 1992:174) 11 with an intellectual and professional critical re-
In "El Problema Nacional," Ricardo Macias Picavea generacionism, symbolized by the literary gener-
(1899:318-20), a leading regeneracionist essayist acion de 98, which rediscovered, both
and intellectual, summarizes the hydraulic mission aesthetically and sociologically, the underdevel-
as a necessary strategy for national development: oped regions of arid Spain. While symbolic repre-
sentations of Spain by the traditional elites still
There are countries which. . . can solely and exclu- reveled in perpetuating the "Leyenda de oro" (see
sively become civilised with such a hydraulic policy, Driever 1998a), which portrayed Spain as a pros-
planned and developed by means of designated
perous, thriving, and successful country, a new
grand works. Spain is among them... And the truth
generation of essayists, poets, novelists, and play-
is that Spanish civilized agriculture finds itself
strongly subjected to this inexorable dilemma: to wrights emerged by the turn of the century. Al-
have water or to die . . . Therefore, a hydraulic though they were by no means a homogeneous
politics imposes itself; this requires changing all the group in intellectual and philosophical terms,
national forces in the direction of this gigantic en- they shared a desire for a positivist-scientific rep-
terprise.... We have to dare to restore great lakes, resentation of the fate of Spain's arid or semiarid
create real interior seas of sweet water, multiply vast regions and a soul-searching quest to transform
marshes, erect many great dams, and mine, exploit and regenerate both "the soul and body" (Perez
and withhold the drops of water that fall over the
1999:500) of the people (Figuero and Santa
peninsula without returning, if possible, a single drop
to the sea.12
Cecilia 1998). Although the label was normally
associated with a small group of intellectuals like
This patriotic mission, requiring the conver- Ramiro de Maeztu, Pfo Barojo, Miguel de Una-
gence of all national forces, fused around the muno, Azorfn dose Martinez Ruiz) and Antonio
hydraulic program, which then became the em- Machado, the influence of the Generation of '98
bodiment and representation of a collective myth was felt much more widely and was an integral

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Modernity and Hybridity 455

part of the regeneracionist debate and modern- life (Ortif 1984:17). Against the dryness of the
izing desires that brewed around the turn of the land-freezing, barren, grey, and uncivilized in
century (Angoustures 1995; Figuero 1998). Picavea's, Unamuno's, Barojo's, or Maetzu's nov-
These intellectuals lamented the decadence of els and essays-and the misery and frustration of
the political elites, and their only perspective for underdevelopment stood the abundance of water,
future emancipation resided in a spiritual and which put the hydraulic utopia of the regenera-
political rebirth of the nation through an embrace tionist discourse at the center of the promise of
of hydraulic politics (Mainer 1972). an abundant paradise and a revival of the vital
The fate of the drylands became a symbol of energies of the country (del Moral Ituarte 1998).
the decline of Spain and its failure to modernize. The hydraulic heroes of the 1890s novelists were
The "hydraulic desire" of the arid lands became apostolic figures whose voluntarist vision fought
the leitmotiv of much of the regeneracionist lit- against the desperation and ignorance of the rural
erature at the time. In the novel La Tierra de masses and the persistent dominance of the tra-
Campos (1896:15 1), Ricardo Macias Picavea de- ditional rural elites, imposing on their modern-
scribes the hydraulic fate of the drylands: izing program a hydraulic revival meant to resolve
the contradictions emerging from the "Social
Autumn had passed without a drop of water, to the
Question" that seemed to plague Spain after its
point that the seeds had dried out. The winter rains
imperial downfall (Ortif 1984:19). The romantic
did not come either. The north-eastern winds, dry
and icy, haven't stayed away a single day. And what and autocratic water missionary became a literary
a period of frost! Black, scorching, without a drop of hero exemplified by Cesar Moncado, in the novel
water in the atmosphere, with temneratures of of failed revivalism Cesar o nada, written by PNo
twelve and fifteen degrees below zero. Baroja in 1909-1910. The hero is determined to
create a municipal democracy in the Castillian
As the hero of the novel attested, only a
village of "Castro Duro" by using his personal
hydraulic quest could revive the land: "Without
power to redistribute land and promote a plan for
the prior solution of the vital problem of irriga-
irrigation and reforestation (Baroja 1909-1910).
tion, no significant reforms will be possible in this
This requires, in the words of the hero, "the
country" 14 (Macias Picavea 1896:151). The Gen-
destruction of los caciques [local traditional political
eration of '98 often invoked the writings of
elites], the termination of the power of the rich, the
Joaquin Costa or Lucas Mallada to express and
submission of the bourgeoisie ... it will redistribute
represent both the landscape and the sociocultu-
the land to the peasants . . . and my dictatorship will
ral conditions of dryland Spain. Unamuno, for
break the network of ownership and of theocracy"'16
example, refers to "the cruelty of the climate,"
(Baroja 1909-1910:24) (my emphasis).
"the sombreness of the landscape," and "the
The figure of the strong, personal, voluntarist,
biting and dry soul" to evoke Spain's rural re-
and quasi-fascist leader as the pivotal actor in
gions and the characteristics of its people.
transforming the social order is staged here as a
Ramiro de Maetzu describes his native Castil-
key actor in breaking the control and power of the
lian landscape as "provinces depopulated like
traditional elites. The hero fails, however, in his
Russian steppes," "a horrible wasteland inhab-
aspirations to defeat the landed aristocracy and
ited by people whose characteristic quality is
its allies, and the novelist narrates the final vic-
their hate of water and trees."'5 Although su-
tory of arid, conservative, and counterrevolution-
perficially similar to a crude environmental de-
ary rural Spain:
terminism, their views were more inspired by a
desire to lift Spain from the doldrums of endur- Today, Castro Duro [the village of the hero] has now
ing political malaise and persistent poverty of definitively abandoned its pretensions to live....
the masses and to recapture its lost position as The springs have dried up, the school has closed, the
a great modernizing nation among the other trees . . . were pulled up. The people emigrate, but
European states. Castro Duro will continue living with its venerated
traditions and its sacrosanct principles . .. sleeping
For these authors, the symbolic and mytho-
under the sun, in the middle of its fields without
logical powers of water were mobilized as the basis
irrigation17 (Baroja 1909-1910:379).
for the hydraulic and spiritual revival of the coun-
try. Contact with water held the promise of re- The hydraulic missionary in Macias Picavea's La
generation, of a new birth, while immersion in Tierra de Campos, Manolo Bermejo, whom the
water fertilized and strengthened the powers of novelist (p. 227) calls the "Christ of Valdecastro

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456 Swyngedouw

[the village of the hero]," has to fight a similar aftermath of the expansion of the U.S. wheat
and equally desperate struggle against tradition: export boom. The traditional landed bourgeoisie
"Castillian agriculture does not need the politics was economically weakened as a result, but their
of the lousy advocates and the opportunists [re- political commitment to maintain their power at
ferring to traditional elites], but it needs a hydrau- both national and local scales did not abate. This
lic policy ... irrigation ... intensive agriculture"'8 control permitted the continuation, if not the reen-
(Macias Picavea 1896:221, 224). After a brief forcement, of a strong protectionist economic-
period during which the hero tries to mobilize the policy framework.
village against the power of the large landowners The central-state intervened nevertheless to
of the drylands and against their protectionism produce a nature amenable to the requirements
and conservatism, the village ends up returning of a modernized, competitive, and irrigated agri-
to the old habits and immobility. The hero is culture (Ortega 1975). This was considered es-
left behind-isolated, humiliated and ruined- sential to the implementation of hydraulic works
embracing "the dead soul of this poor fatherland" that would "remake the geography of the father-
(Macias Picavea 1896:325). land" (Costa 1892, cited in del Moral Ituarte
These novels contemplate the fate of the land 1998:121), revive the national economy, and "re-
if the revivalist mission does not succeed, while generate the people" [la raza] (del Moral Ituarte
already foreshadowing the formidable obstacles 1998:121). The hydraulic politics were, for Costa
and the almost unavoidable failure of the pro- (1975), a way to place Spain within a European
ject.19 The desperation, the emphasis on the role sociospatial framework, after its loss of influence
of the enlightened male leader who pursues his in the Americas, on the basis of a rural develop-
mission, and the stubborn resistance of tradi- ment vision that combined a Rousseauan ideal
tional forces already hint at the later emergence with a small-scaled, independent, and demo-
of the falangist ideology and fascist victory. The cratic peasant society. The promotion of the rural
hydraulic project was seen as a fundamental tool ideal on the basis of a petty-bourgeois ideology
in preventing the escalation of the political- would become the spinal cord of the liberal state
economic and social turmoil, tensions, and con- and the route to the Europeanization of the na-
flicts. Its failure during the early years of the tion (Nadal Reimat 1981:139; Fernandez Cle-
twentieth century resulted exactly in what the mente 1990).
regeneracionists tried to prevent: sharpening cri- The growing demand for water and the re-
sis, culminating in civil war and the installation quirements for a more efficient and equitable
of a dictatorship.20 The latter, ironically, mirrors distribution of irrigation waters necessitated a
the qualities and characteristics of heroes that fundamental change in the legal status and ap-
appear in the novels of Macias Picavea and propriation rights of water. The liberal revolution
Baroja. Franco would indeed push through some in Spain (approximately 1811-1873), which had
of the reforms-and, in particular, internal colo- attempted an institutional (anti)feudal restruc-
nization and hydraulic plans-the regeneracion- turing to promote capitalist forms of ownership
ists had advocated (see Ortega 1975; Reguerra and the circulation of goods as commodities, ex-
Rodriguez 1986; Rodriguez de la Rua 1993). tended also to what Maluquer de Motes
(1983:76) called the "depatrimonialization of
water." Indeed, as with land, water did not have
The State as Master
the characteristic of a privately owned and trade-
Socioenvironmental Engineer
able good. The existence of seignorial rights over
water prevented or blocked the development of
"To irrigate is to govern" (Costa [1892] 1975)
productive activities that necessitated ever-larger
Surely such an ambitious perspective to regen- quantities of water. Although the depatrimoniali-
erate Spain through a geographical project neces- zation of land and water reinforced their private
sitated concerted action and collective control. character, the growing political and economic
The regeneracionists welcomed the liberation crisis of liberalism towards the end of the century
of international markets and the demise of prevented the state from embarking on a produc-
nineteenth-century protectionism under which tivist and privately run program to maximize pro-
the dryland latifundistas of (mainly southern and duction "to the last drop of water" (Gomez
central) Spain flourished. By 1880, trade liberali- Mendoza and Ortega Cantero 1992:174). The
zation had plunged them into a deep crisis in the regeneracionist vision, then, faced with the failure

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Modernity and Hybridity 457

of privatized and commodified water to operate 1990). The hydraulic agenda of Costa and his
as an efficient allocative and productive instru- colleagues was clouded with revolutionary claims
ment, promoted the emergence of a collective but defended as a reformist route for development
spirit ("illusion" in the words of Alfonso Orti against the stronghold of an antireformist, eco-
[1984:14]). The latter implied that the supply of nomically and culturally conservative and protec-
the necessary quantities of water was only possi- tionist elite. In sum, two models of capitalist
ble under a public and socialized form of coordi- accumulation, with evidently different support-
nation managed through the state. This ing social groups and allies, crystallized around
collective and state-led but productivist and the hydraulic debates at the time. The social,
modernizing vision, would eventually also in- political, and ecological consequences and impli-
clude the state-led production of "great hydraulic cations of these two models would differ funda-
works" (Ortega 1975; Villaneuva Larraya 1991). mentally even while sharing an organicist vision
In sum, the regeneracionists turned to the of the world. On the one hand, the traditionalists
state-after the failure of the Liberal project to defended a protectionist economic stance and the
defeat the feudal elites-as the agent that could continuation of existing political and social power
generate a sufficiently large volume of capital to relations. On the other, the regeneracionists ad-
mobilize the nation's natural resources. More- vocated a more liberal perspective, a rapid mod-
over, for Costa, the productivist modernization by ernization of the economy, and a transformation
means of the hydraulic motor would in fact con- of sociopolitical power relations. The issue of land
solidate the liberal state in Spain. In short, a ownership and the role of water therein revolved
free -market-based, intensive, and productive na- around the question of who would own and con-
tional economy, whose accumulation process trol what part of the land and its waters. For the
would accelerate on a par with other northern regeneracionists, for whom petty ownership con-
European states, necessitated a transformation in stituted the way ahead, the hydraulic route was
the state in a double and deeply contradictory an essential precondition, while the limited pos-
sense. Power relations within the state apparatus sibilities for accumulation pointed to the state as
needed to change in favor of, first, a more mod- the only body that could generate the required
ernist alliance of petty-owners, industrialists, and investment funds on the one hand and push
modernizing engineers, and second, revolution- through the necessary reforms in the face of
ary social reform supported by the state such that strong and sustained opposition from the landed
the grand hydraulic works could lay the founda- aristocracy on the other (Ortega 1975, 1992). At
tions for a modernizing Spain. These two tasks the same time, the very support of at least some
were of course mutually dependent, and yet irrec- sections of the old elites could be secured via this
oncilable. Strong traditional forces fought to reformist route, since it did not threaten their
maintain control over key state functions and fundamental rights as landowners but defended
prevented the rise to political power of the nas- rural power against the rising tide of the urban
cent petty-owners and middle classes. This firm industrial elites and the proletariat. This was
hold of the traditional conservative elites blocked indeed quite central to forging the support of the
most attempts at modernizing the social econ- dominant Catholic groups that defended a soli-
omy. The mosaic of contradictory forces and the daristic and organic model of social cohesion.
resistance of the traditionalists would stall state-
led modernizing efforts, resulting in more acute
and openly fought social antagonisms throughout Purification and the Transformation
the first two decades of the century. These would of Nature: Hydraulic Engineers as
eventually pave the way for dictatorial regimes Producers of Socionature
from the 1920s onwards.
Despite the collectivist discourse of much of The hydraulic intervention to create a
the regeneracionist literature, it remained deeply waterscape supportive of the modernizing desires
committed to a project of insertion into an inter- of the revivalists, without questioning the social
national capitalist market. Although the state and political foundations of the existing class
needed to take central control over water and structure and social order, was very much based
forests, it should do so on the basis of a land- on a respect for "natural" laws and conditions.
ownership structure that was essentially private The latter were assumed to be or thought of as
and market-led (see also Fernandez Clemente intrinsically stable, balanced, equitable, and

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458 Swyngedouw

harmonious. The hydraulic engineering mission vert to the great orographical delimitation for
consisted primarily in "restoring" the "perturbed" organizing the division of the land represents a
equilibrium of the erratic hydrological cycles in contribution made from within the strict field of
Spain. This endeavor required a significant scien- our discipline [engineering] and at the same time,
tific and engineering enterprise, first in terms of at least initially, it shows the abandoning of tra-
understanding and analyzing nature's "laws," ditional political divisions and the importance of
and, second, in using these insights to work to- other perspectives and concepts."2'
ward a restoration of the "innate" harmonious This scientific and natural division provided
development of nature. The moral, economic, an apparently enduring and universal scale for
and cultural "disorder" and "imbalances" of the territorial organization in lieu of the more recent
country at the time paralleled the "disorder" in political and historical scales associated with
Spain's erratic hydraulic geography, both of politico-administrative boundaries. As Smith
which needed to be restored and rebalanced (as (1969:20) argues, "the identity of the drainage
nature's innate laws suggested) to produce a so- basin seemed to offer a concrete and 'natural' unit
cially harmonious development. Two threads which could profitably replace political units as
have to be woven together in this context: the the areal context for geographical study." Brun-
pivotal position of a particular group of scientists hes (1920:93) insisted on the water basin as the
in the hydraulic arena, the Corps of Engineers foundation for the organization of the land since
(Villaneuva Larraya 1991), and the changing vi- "water is the sovereign wealth of the state and its
sions concerning the scientific management of people" (see also Chorley 1969). Such a view was
the terrestrial part of the hydrological cycle. Both, widely recounted in Spain, and its arguments
in turn, were linked to the rising prominence of were rallied in defense of a new orographic-
hydraulic issues on the sociopolitical agenda at administrative organization of the territory.
the turn of the century. The history of the delimitation of hydrological
The Corps of Engineers, founded in 1799, was divisions is infused with the influence of the re-
(and remains) the professional collective respon- generacionist discourse on the one hand and the
sible for the development and implementation of scientific insights gained from hydrology and
public works. It is a highly elitist, intellectualist, orography on the other. The attempt to "natural-
"high-cultured," male-dominated, socially ho- ize" political territorial organization was part and
mogeneous, and exclusive corporatist organiza- parcel of a strategy of the modernizers to chal-
tion that has, over the centuries, taken a leading lenge existing social and political power geome-
role in Spanish politics and development (Mateu tries. The construction of and command over a
Belles 1995). The decision-making structure is new territorial scale might permit them to imple-
hierarchical and all key managerial and institu- ment their vision and by pass more traditional and
tional bodies, such as the "Junta Consultiva de las reactionary power configurations. The complex
Obras Publicas," the hydrological divisions, the history of the formation of river-basin authorities
provincial headquarters, and various ad hoc study and their articulation with other political forms
commissions are exclusively "manned" by engi- of territorial organization, in particular the na-
neers. In line with the emergent scientific dis- tional state, is a long, complicated, and tortuous
course on orography and river-basin structure one. "Nature" would become inextricably con-
and dynamics, the engineering community ar- nected to the choreography of power, while the
gued for the foundation of engineering and mana- scientific discourse on nature was strategically
gerial intervention on the basis of the "natural" marshalled to serve power struggles for the con-
integrated water flow of a basin, rather than on trol over and management of water. The river
the basis of historically and socially formed ad- basins would become the scale par excellence
ministrative regions (see Figure 4). The emergent through which the modernizers tried to under-
geographical regionalization overlaid the tradi- mine or erode the powers of the more traditional
tional political-administrative divisions of the provincial or national state bodies. Therefore, the
country, forcing a reordering of the territory on struggle over the territorial organization of inter-
the basis of the country's orographical structure. vention expresses the political power struggles
The latter, in turn, was portrayed by the engineers between traditionalists and reformers. While the
as the crucial planning unit for hydraulic inter- river-basin defenders would become the founding
ventions. Cano Garcia (1992:312) succinctly "fathers" of the regeneracionist agenda, the tra-
summarizes this scientific perspective: "To re- ditional elites held to the existing administrative

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Modernity and Hybridity 459


a v7t ; S e A ;

0 150m G s__Hydrographic l

Figure 4. Boundaries of the Autonomous Regions and the Hydrographic Confederations.

territorial structure of power. The regeneracionist fascist-organicist state structure (Gomez Mendoza
engineers thereby incorporated the naturalized and Ortega Cantero 1992).
river basins into their political project. Capturing This negotiation of scale and the science/
the scale of the river basin as the geographical politics debate around the scaling of hydraulic
basis for exercising control and power over the intervention and planning raged for almost a
organization, planning, and reconstruction of the century before the current structure was put into
hydraulic landscape was one of the central arenas place (Cano Carcfa 1992; Mateu Belles 1995).
through which the power of the traditionalists The Water Act of 1879 established that all surface
(and the scales over which they exercised water was common property, managed by the
hegemonic control) was challenged. In fact, this
state. This also implied the need to create admin-
rescaling of the state and the articulation of dif-
strative structures to perform these managerial
ferent scales of governance became one of the
tasks (Giansante 1999). The first ten hydrological
great arenas of struggle for control and power. For
divisions were established by Royal Decree in
the engineering community and the modernizers,
1865 and, from the very beginning, were consid-
the scale of the river basin became the battle-
ered to be major instruments for the economic
ground over which political and social conflict
modernization process. Some of these divisions
was fought. The modernizers attempted to take
more or less coincided with major river basins
hold of the hydrological divisions and develop
(Ebro, Tajo, Duero); others (as in the South) had
them as pivotal institutions for instigating the
hydrological revolution, while the national scale a much closer correspondence to provincial
remained more firmly in the hands of the tradi- boundaries. All were named after the provincial
tional elites. The bumpy history of the hydrologi- capital city in which the head office was located
cal divisions records this struggle. The instability (Mateu Belles 1994). Their basic purpose was to
of their administrative and political organization serve as an institutional basis for the collection of
reflects the relative power of the traditional power statistical data to assist the study and research of
brokers. It would await Franco's dictatorship before the water cycle. These surveys could then be used
this issue was resolved, at which time the hydrologi- by the real power-holders (provincial offices for
cal dream and its intellectual bearers, the engineers, public works, special ad hoc commissions, or pri-
were aligned with and incorporated into a new vate industry) (del Moral Ituarte 1995). These

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460 Swyngedouw

first hydrological divisions were abolished in the geography of the country and, particularly, its
1870, reorganized in seven divisions the same "imbalances in its climatic and hydraulic regimes"
year, and abolished again in 1899. In the wake of (Gomez Mendoza and Ortega Cantero
the regeneracionist spirit, the seven hydraulic 1992:173); and third, this enterprise of geo-
divisions were reestablished the next year and graphical rectification could, because of its range
their tasks extended to include the detailed study and importance, only be carried out by the central
and planning of, and the formulation of proposals public authorities. The hydraulic mission was
for, hydraulic interventions. The ultimate decision- seen as the solution to the social problems facing
making power would remain at the traditional Spain at the turn of the century. Failing this,
provincial level, which supervised and executed social tensions were bound to intensify, and strug-
the hydraulic works, and with the central state for gle, if not civil war, would be the likely outcome.
financing and controlling the infrastructure pro- Ironically, of course, the voluntarist, powerful,
grams (Mateus Belles 1994). and autocratic hydraulic engineer pursuing a vol-
It was only from 1926 onwards, during the untarist program of imposed reform foreshad-
dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, that the current owed the fascist (falangist) ideology. The latter
Confederaciones Sindicales Hidrograficas were would gain momentum from the early 1920s on-
gradually established as quasi-autonomous or- ward, first with the dictatorship of Primo de
ganizations in charge of managing water as stipu- Rivera and later, with Franco. The failure of the
lated by the Water Act of 1879 (Giansante 1999). hydraulic politics in the early decades of the twen-
The last of these ten Confederaciones was only tieth century announced what Costa and his
established in 1961 (see Figure 4). What had literary allies had feared and desperately tried to
proven impossible to achieve during the first dec- prevent. Although the debates at the turn of the
ades of the century was finally implemented dur- century indicated a desire to regenerate Spain,
ing the dictatorship. It is also from that moment conservative forces prevented its actual imple-
on that their names reflected the river basins for mentation, and social tension intensified, further
which they were responsible rather than the pre- destabilizing an already highly fragmented and
vious political-territorial naming. In addition, they divisive society. The centralizing fascist regimes
acquired a certain political status with participation that emerged from this turmoil could finally push
from the state, banks, chambers of commerce, pro- through the production of a new geography, a
vincial authorities, etc. At each stage, the engineers new nature, and a new waterscape, something the
took the lead roles and became the activists of the regeneracionists of the turn of the century had so
regeneracionist project through the combination of desperately advocated but failed to accomplish.
their legitimization as the holders of scientific This quasi-object and hybrid thing that, until
knowledge and their privileged position as a politi- this very day, embodies Spain's modernization
cally elite corps within the state apparatus. The process, expresses how modernity is deeply and
complex and perpetually changing administrative inevitably a geographical project in which the
organization and power structures associated with intertwined transformations of nature and society
the successive attempts to establish river-basin are both medium and expression of shifting power
authorities, and their relative lack of power until the positions that become materialized in the produc-
1930s, reflect the failure of the early modernizers to tion of new water flows and the construction of
fundamentally challenge existing power lineages new waterscapes. It is the maelstrom of tensions
and scales (Mateu Belles 1994,1995). It is only from and contradictions that weave the material, dis-
the later 1920s, and in particular during the Franco cursive, ideological, and representational, to-
era, that the regeneracionist project was gradually gether in often-perplexing, always deeply
implemented. heterogeneous, collages of changing and shifting
positions of power and struggle that decisively
shaped the production of the Spanish waterscape
Conclusions over the next century.
I have attempted to reconstruct multiple and
In sum, the regeneracionist agenda(s) first often contradictory narratives that span a broad
maintained that the restoration of wealth in range of apparently separate instances such as
Spain should be based on the knowledge of the engineering, politics, economics, culture, science,
laws and balances of nature; second, this restora- nature, ideology, and discourse through which
tion required the correction of defects imposed by the tumultuous reordering of sociophysical space

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Modernity and Hybridity 461

is shaped and transformed, and out of which a estructural de la sociedad espafiola como sociedad
new socioenvironmental landscape emerges; industrial."
2. Of course, in the U.S., a number of interesting and
landscapes that are simultaneously physical and
innovative approaches on the role of water politics
social, they reflect historical-geographical
in the expansion of the western frontier and in
struggles and social power geometries, and they shaping the modernization of the U. S. (and in
interiorize the flux and dynamics of sociospatial particular California) have been published over
change. Geographical conditions, this paper has the past decade or so (see, for example, Worster
argued, are reconstructed as the outcome of a 1985; Starr 1990; Gottlieb and FitzSimmons
process of production in which both nature and 1991; Hundley 1992).
3. For further discussion, see Swyngedouw (1996)
society are fused together in a way that renders
and Swyngedouw and Kaika (1999).
them inseparable, producing a restless "hybrid"
4. My translation. In Spanish, "La desgracia de
quasi-object in which material, representational, Espafia ha nacido principalmente de que no llego
and symbolic practices are welded together. Do- a entrar en la conciencia nacional la idea de que
ing geography then implies the excavation and la guerra interior contra la sequia, contra las ru-
reconstruction of the contested process of the gosidades del suelo, la rigidez de las costas, el
"production of nature." Of course, this perspec- rezago intelectual de la raza, el apartamiento al
centro europeo, la falta de capital, tenia una im-
tive also asks serious questions about who con-
portancia mayor que la guerra contra el separa-
trols, who acts, and who has the power to produce
tismo cubano o filipino, y no haber sentido ante
what kind of socionature. The intertwining of na- ellas las mismas alarmas que sintio ante esta, y no
ture and society in this production process has haber hecho por la una los mismos sacrificios que
indeed profound political implications. As Lewon- no vacilo en hacer por la otra, de no haber con-
tin (1997:137-38), a Harvard biologist, maintains: fiado a los ingenieros y los maestros el raudal de
oro que ha prodigado, triste suicida, a los almiran-
The constructionist view of organism and environ- tes y generales."
ment is of some consequnce to human action.... 5. The liberalization of international trade in the
Remaking the world is the universal property of second half of the nineteenth century, combined
living organisms and is inextricably bound up with with the transportation revolution, had expanded
their nature.... We must decide what kind of world cheap wheat imports from the U. S. and plunged
we want to live in and then try to manage the process the traditional dry-land-based Spanish wheat pro-
of change as best as we can approximate it. ducers into a severe crisis.
6. For a full bibliography, see Cheyne (1972)
7. My translation. In Spanish, "Para rehabilitarnos,
Acknowledgments imprescindible es comenzar rehabilitando la
propia tierra: condicion esencial y absoluta. Y para
I am grateful to the European Union's Fourth restaurar ese medio geografico, que es nuestra
Framework Training and Mobility Programme for the patria, quien negarat que lo primero ha de ser
financial assistance to carry out this research. I am conocerlo bien y exactamente? De aqui el caracter
particularly grateful to the Department of Geography verdaderamente patriotico con que el cultivo de
of the University of Seville for hosting me as a Marie la geografi'a iberica ha de ofrecerse a los ojos de
Curie Fellow during the summer and fall of 1996; to todos los espafioles."
Leandro del Moral for sharing his expertise, archival 8. My translation. In Spanish, "No hay nada mas
materials, thoughts, and friendship; and to Prof. Imacu- urgente para nuestra reconstitucion nacional que
lada Caravaca for her hospitality and interest. I would un profundo estudio de nuestra geografia y nues-
like to thank Leandro del Moral, Maria Kaika, Judith tro suelo, que sera el germen del gran ren-
Gerber, Karen Bakker, Ben Page, Guy Baeten, and acimiento politico de Espafia."
Josep-Antoni Gari for their support and comments on 9. The dominant view among the regeneracionists is
earlier versions of the paper. I am grateful to Ailsa Allen that nothing in Spain can change as long as the
for the cartographic work. Last but not least, the com- land-owning oligarchic aristocracy stayed in
ments of the referees helped in streamlining the paper, power via a system of "caciquismo." This was
both in content and structure. The responsibility for based on a locally organized network of clientelist,
the final product remains entirely mine. nepotist and personalized systems of political and
social dependency through which most of political
life during the nineteenth and early twentieth
Notes centuries was organized. This assured a solid hold
of traditional forces on the various levels of the
1. My translation. In Spanish, "[L] a ordenacion state apparatus (see Costa [1901] 1998; Martinez
hidratulica del territorio constituye una necesidad Allier 1968; Perez 1999).

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462 Swyngedouw

10. My translation. In Spanish, "La Poliftica con sus veneradas tradiciones y sus sacrosantos
Hidraulica entendida en un sentido amplio y sim- principios . . . dormido al sol, en medio de sus
bolico, como un proceso de transformacion acel- campos sin riego."
erado de la agricultura de extensiva y tradicional 18. My translation. In Spanish, "La agricultura castel-
en moderna e intesiva, debe constituir el vector lano lo que necesita es, no la politica de los
fundamental de la poliftica nacional, catalizando leguleyos y de los vividores, sino la politica hy-
una reforma agraria que posibilite un desarrollo draulica ... los riegos . . . el cultivo intensivo."
economico equilibrado y evite el progresivo 19. For an analysis of the stability of the latifundistas
proceso de proletarizacion de las masas campesi- and the associated political order, see Martinez
nas, moderando la polarizacion social y la lucha Allier (1966), Varela Ortega (1977), and Costa
de clases."
(1901-1902, in Orti 1976).
11. In the 1980s, this mission to create a national
20. The first dictatorship was installed in 1923 byJose
artery system, first formulated at the turn of the
Antonio Primo de Rivera. After the Civil War of
century, would become the backbone of the
1936, Franco would, of course, become the arche-
highly controversial Draft Proposal of the Second
typal fascist dictator.
National Hydrological Plan (1994), which pro-
21. My translation. In Spanish, "Recurrir a las grandes
posed to link all of Spain's river basins together by
alineaciones orograficas para efectuar una di-
means of national, large-scale systems of interre-
vision de la superficie terrestre representa una
gional water transfers (see Swyngedouw 1997).
12. My translation. In Spanish, "Hay paises que ... aportacion realizada desde el estricto campo de
solo, unicamente, exclusivamente, pueden ser nuestra disciplina y muestra al mismo tiempo, por
paises civilizados a costa de esa poliftica hidraulica lo menos inicialmente, el abandono de las divisio-
desarrollada en las magnas obras precisas al efecto. nes polifticas y la importancia concedida a otros
Espafia entre ellos. . . . Y la verdad es que las enfoques y conceptos."
agricultura civilizada Espafnola . . . se halla f&r-
reamente sujeta a este dilema implacable: o tener
agua o perecer.... Se impone, pues, la politica References
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Correspondence: School of Geography, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3TB, U.K.; email erik.

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