Structure, Politics, and Ethnonationalist Contention in Post-Franco Spain: An Integrated Model

Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 25-46, 2004

33 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2011

See all articles by Gregory D. Saxton

Gregory D. Saxton

Schulich School of Business, York University

Date Written: November 4, 2003


Previous models of nationalism have been unable to adequately account for variation in forms or levels of contentious nationalist activity. Building on the most important theoretical tools from the literatures on social movements and nationalism, an alternative model is proposed in which structure, politics, and action assume equal roles in an interdependent causal system. It is further proposed that violent and non-violent contention, though conceptually distinct phenomena, are the products of a fundamentally similar set of factors. The model posits that socio-structural ‘root causes’ are vital to the development of ethnonationalist contentious politics, but indirectly via mobilization. The direct determinants of protest and rebellion are a conjunction of organizational mobilization and political opportunity structures. In particular, a shared identity gives groups of people the basis for organizational mobilization; mobilizational resources provide the means for such mobilization; grievances lend the reason; and a series of political factors structure the opportunities of mobilized groups to contend in a conventional, violent or non-violent manner. The opportunity structures are then themselves transformed by the nature of the contention that takes place. Using a 3SLS structural equation model and original data from the 17 autonomous communities of Spain between 1977 and 1996, the results show that structure, politics, and action are, as predicted, three fundamental components of an interdependent causal system. The vital, yet indirect role of grievances and group identity in the generation of ethnonationalist conflict is confirmed, and a number of powerful relationships obtain with the individual elements of the political opportunity structure. Higher levels of democracy are related to increased protest, more intense repression is associated with lower levels of contentious activity, and the level of regional autonomy has no apparent impact on conflict. In the short term, moreover, Spain’s major democratic transition is shown to exacerbate existing conflict propensities.

Keywords: Protest, rebellion, domestic conflict, Spain, nationalism, ethnic conflict

Suggested Citation

Saxton, Gregory D., Structure, Politics, and Ethnonationalist Contention in Post-Franco Spain: An Integrated Model (November 4, 2003). Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 25-46, 2004, Available at SSRN:

Gregory D. Saxton (Contact Author)

Schulich School of Business, York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3


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