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Maeztu, Ramiro de (1875-1936)
by Rentfrow, Daphne


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Ramiro de Maeztu 1875-1936

Born of a mother with English origins and a Basque father, Maeztu—who would become a journalist and sociopolitical theorist—was fluent in English and Spanish and later published in both languages. After living in Cuba, he returned to Spain, where he became a leader in the Generation of '98, a Spanish literary and cultural movement of the first two decades of the twentieth century. Given its name by Azorín in 1913 to define the group of young writers who, after the 1898 defeat in the Spanish-American War, proclaimed a moral and cultural rebirth for Spain, the Generation of '98 included many leaders of the Spanish literary scene, including Darío, considered the founder of modernismo. The group was primarily concerned with defining the essential quality of Spain, its history and culture.

In 1899, Maeztu published his first book, Hacia otra España, in which he advocated for Spain to break with its past and enter the European mainstream. But the war would change that mainstream. Maeztu, a London correspondent for Spanish newspapers since 1905, traveled to France and Germany during the war. Increasingly disillusioned by what he witnessed, Maeztu eventually became convinced that reason could and would not solve social problems; instead, he called for a reliance on authority, tradition, and the institutions of the Roman Catholic church. The book in which these ideas were developed was titled Authority, Liberty, and Function in Light of the War (published in Spain in 1919 as La crisis del humanismo), and was based on his regular contributions to The New Age (in particular volume 17), his diaries, and writings for other journals.

Maeztu eventually broke with his radical peers and became instead the most important intellectual apologist for the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. He founded the conservative movement Acción Española, served as ambassador to Argentina in 1928, and published several collections of essays (Don Quijote, Done Juan y La Celestina). Vehemently opposed to the Spanish Republic, Maeztu, in his last book (La defensa de la hispanidad) urged Spain to recover its sense of the 16th century Roman Catholic mission, which he considered beneficial to the conquered people of the empire.

A regular contributor to The New Age, Maeztu both influenced and was influenced by the group of writers circling around Orage. Of particular influence were the writings of Arthur Penty, who first detailed the doctrine of Guild Socialism in his 1906 The Restoration of the Guild System. Maeztu's own theories of Guild Socialism and the function of society are based on The New Age's doctrines, articulated by Penty, Orage, and S. G. Hobson. Penty was important also because of his emphasis on the importance in his doctrine of the soul / spirit, which was crucial to Maeztu's writings on spirituality and faith and their role in social improvement. Another contributor that left a mark on Maeztu was T.E. Hulme, the translator of George Sorel's Reflections on Violence, a text that found its way into Maeztu's philosophy. Upon hearing of Hulme's death in France, Maeztu declared that his influence had not been merely doctrinal or philosophical, but as a model of heroism and civic valor. Ironically, Maeztu was also killed fighting for a belief: he was shot by the Republicans in the first days of the Spanish Civil War.

—Daphnée Rentfrow

Sources

  • Cuevas, P.C. Gonzales. “El organicismo de Maeztu.”Razon Espanola. No. 96. http://galeon.hispavista.com/razonespanola/re96-mae.html. Accessed March 20, 2003.
  • “Maeztu, Ramiro de. ”Encyclopædia Britannica. 2003. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
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