Opus Dei is a catholic institution composed of both priests and laymen, very close to the Pope, who praises its doctrinal integrity and commitment to his policies. Juan Paul II even appointed one of its members, Rafael Navarro Valls, as Vatican spokesman.
Early Opus Dei flourished in the atmosphere of religious fervour within the winning side of the Spanish Civil War. Its founder, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer was a strong supporter of the “Cruzade” as the Spanish bishops labeled the war. He wrote his main book, “Camino”, “The Way”, during the war, in Burgos, close to the Franco headquarters, where he made well connected friends. “Camino” sums up Escriva´s “nationalcatholicism”, the Trento doctrine which canonized the union between Church and State. Escriva conceived Opus Dei as a sort of Catholic answer to the liberal, secularist Institución Libre de Enseñanza which was blamed by the Spanish Church for the growing secularization of Republican Spain in the thirties and he enrolled young intellectuals to devoted their life entirely just to do it. Two members of Opus Dei affirm the originality of Escriva`s idea (Fuenmayor, Amadeo, Illanes, José Luis, 1990, 2) El itinerario jurídico del Opus Dei. Historia y defensa de un carisma). Many other analysts describe Opus Dei as a typical example of Spanish Catholicism. (Artigues, Daniel, 1968, 20) L´Opus Dei en Espagne. Son evolution politique et idéologique, Ruedo Ibérico, 1968). From 1928, the year Escrivá claimed he received the divine inspiration until 1936, the year the Spanish war started, he had no more than a handful, seven or eight, followers. After the war the membership slowly grow and by 1945 about ten houses of numeraries, or celibate members, have been opened in Spain. Escrivá enjoyed the favor of a sympathetic Minister of Education José Ibañez Martín and, as a consequence, Opus Dei university professors obtained the control of the newly created research organism, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, usually known by its initials CSIC. Soon they move to doctrinal action and, without fully realizing it, tried to establish a Spanish version of Action Francaise. To this end they created Ediciones Rialp, a publishing house named for a forest in the Catalonian Pyrenees. Escrivá, the "Father", trekked through the Rialp forest in his flight from the Republican zone during the Spanish Civil War, with some of the first members. Opus Dei’s internal tradition recounts that the Virgin Mary confirmed him in his mission during the passage through the forest. Ediciones Rialp published Opus Dei member Rafael Calvo Serer’s España sin problema in response to Pedro Laín Entralgo’s doubts in España como problema. University teacher Florentino Pérez Embid and other members proclaimed themselves disciples of the Catholic scholar Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo and set out to translate European conservative thought into Spanish.
A result of the effort was the incorporation of Pérez Embid and others into the cultural arm of the Franco administration, first in the Ministry of Propaganda and subsequently in the leadership and control of the Athenaeum. A particularly close association developed between member Laureano López Rodó, who organized the CSIC administratively, and Franco’s long-time collaborator Admiral Carrero Blanco. These relationships set the stage for a second more exuberant period of Opus Dei’s public impact. During the 1950s and 1960s, Franco entrusted the helm of the faltering Spanish economy to a handful Opus Dei members, Alberto Ullastres, Mariano Navarro, Gregorio López Bravo, and López Rodó. In the wake of these major players, a vigorous lobby of members and friends of the institution sprang up which created innumerable business ventures.
The 1950s and 1960s also saw the expansion of the Opus Dei outside Spain, especially in Latin American dictatorships of Chile and Argentina. Opus Dei penetrated those Catholic groups which felt most alienated by the Second Vatican Council. For the moment Rome looked on Escrivá’s movement with suspicion and Christian progressives accused it of supporting the Spanish dictator. Pope Paul VI, who as Archbishop of Milan had been a militant opponent of Franco, was especially critical and blocked Escrivá’s petition to transform Opus Dei´s canonical designation from a Secular Institute to a prelature. I remember listening to an angry Escriva denouncing how Montini dared to join the European clamor against the death penalties signed by Franco. Montini was not his kind of Pope neither was Roncalli before.
The context in which the above group of Opus Dei members operated in politics was a correction of the Spanish economy mandated by international financial organisms and directed at ending the previous model of self‑sufficiency or autarchy. The adjustments took place in a regime where public criticism or opposition by organized labour were not allowed. Things did not go well for the network of interests and enterprises woven around the “Work”, as they internally called the institution. Mostly led by people without experience, the group ventures into the realms of finance, publishing, and international trade, ended in internal and external conflicts, spectacular failures, and a reputation for immorality and arbitrariness that have subsequently characterized the business ventures of men whose mentors proclaimed the idea of sanctification of work. Criticism grew to the point that at the end of the 1960s Escrivá decreed the suppression of auxiliary enterprises or "common works" in internal terminology. The scandals around Matesa, Rumasa, and so many other affairs are full of Opus Dei names. Opus Dei authorities had presented the supernumerary member José María Ruiz Mateos as a model father and businessman, and an outstanding benefactor. He was suddenly excluded from the list of acknowledged members after public controversies with other members whom he blamed for his fall. (See Jesus Ynfante, “Opus Dei. Así en la tierra como en el cielo”, Grijalbo Mondadori, 1996).
Escrivá had placed special emphasis on Opus Dei’s journalistic endeavors ‑ "We must wrap the world in printed paper" he used to say. The periodicals were the last to break away from institutional control. Some formed the Recoletos Group (Telva, Marca, Actualidad Económica) controlled by persons close to Opus Dei, and now owned by the British group Pearson. Even so, other scandals continue to percolate: the Fundación General Mediterránea, one of Opus Dei’s secret economic instruments, have been in the Spanish papers recently because of unfair practices. Some specialists have begun to gather documentary evidence about connections between Opus Dei and Vatican finances. But as Opus Dei people believe in eclesiastical and banking secrecy with the same fervour as in confession secrecy, most of the rumours are very difficult to probe. Among them the role of Opus Dei in channelling money to Solidarsnoc to foster the break-up of Communism in Poland. (Maurizio del Giacomo and Jordi Minguel, "El Finanament de l’eglesia católica", Descoberta 21, 1998).
In another field, a small group of Opus Dei men and women followed the time honoured ecclesiastical tradition of seeking influence at court. Federico Suárez Verdeguer, Angel López Amo, and Laura Hurtado de Mendoza obtained positions in the incipient household of Prince Juan Carlos. Others worked for restoration of the monarchy. Laureano López Rodó supported the prince. A group headed by Calvo Serer backed Juan Carlos’ father Don Juan. Other Opus Dei members defended the Carlist candidate. Escrivá himself eventually leaned toward the position of López Rodó. (See my Historia oral del Opus Dei, Plaza y Janés, 1985, and Jesús Ynfante, op.cit).
A third stage of Opus Dei in Spain coincides with the return of democracy, John Paul II’s pontificate, and the crisis of Catholic education. Under the democracy a relatively small number of Opus Dei members hold leadership positions in national and regional conservative parties and in banks. Nowadays, members no longer act in a concerted fashion as in Franco’s time, but pursue the normal goals of democratic capitalism and extract some benefit for their own objectives. Since Spain lacks an extreme right wing party, it is not possible to measure the percentage of members with extremist leanings, but the sympathy of many Opus Dei officers and some civilians for the February 21, 1981 coup d’etat attempt was apparent. General Armada, one of the masterminds of the coup, is close to Opus Dei, “Military men, by the very fact of their being that, already have half the vocation to Opus Dei,” Escrivá used to preach.
Pope John Paul II reversed the Vatican’s critical stance toward the Work. After Escrivá’s death he granted the desired change of canonical status from secular institute to personal prelature, which bestowed great independence from diocesan bishops. Also the founder was beatified in a process whose flaws provoked sharp criticism even within the Curia. However, the most notable feature of the new stage is the transformation of Opus Dei into an organization primarily devoted to private education. It has thus assumed the care for sectors of the middle class that the Jesuits were abandoning.
Escrivá wrote in some foundational documents that the “Work” would never have its own educational institutions; rather, its members were to exercise their professions preferably "in State buildings with State money" (See Instruction of St. Gabriel, internal document, 1937). Nevertheless, Escrivá and his representatives in Spain never ceased to adapt to circumstances and make a virtue of necessity. The energies set free by the abandonment of the politico‑mercantile project were harnessed in a race to create primary and secondary schools and a few universities; some directly under the jurisdiction of the “Work”, while others belong to corporate intermediaries. In 2000 no Spanish city or Latin American capital lacks one Opus Dei school for boys and another for girls; coeducation is not allowed. Some cities have three or more.
Although Opus Dei never disclose the numbers of its members by category and function, my guess is that the majority of the numeraries to-day are employed in education, ecclesiastical jobs and the internal bureaucracy. Opus has come to resemble teaching congregations, such as the Sallesians or Marists, who appeared in France in response to the secularization and anticlericalism of the Revolution. The brothers were laymen with private religious vows; they acted and dressed like laymen, but gradually their practices and even their attire become uniform, a process observable among unmarried men and especially unmarried women of the Work. Little by little, Opus Dei has become clerical, and nowadays, the majority of its regional and national hierarchy are priests. A kind of social endogamy and fortress mentality is experienced as protection by those inside, ghetto by those outside. Many of the numeraries come from supernumeraries homes, attend Opus Dei schools, graduate to its universities, go to Rome, and once trained, are assigned to the internal bureaucracy or the educational network without exercising a secular profession or having worldly experience. Such is the case of the current Prelate, Javier Echevarría, who became Escrivá’s secretary as a young man and has spent his life in Rome in the internal bureaucracy; he lacks secular university studies or professional experience. Observers agree that there has been a lowering of social and intellectual status of new members.
Escrivá shared the misogyny frequent in Catholic theology and discipline and created a structure in which the primary activity of women was to care for houses and centres of the Work. Indeed one type of female members, who come from modest homes, were termed servants in the first edition of the Constitution. The result of this setup is that the numeraries are the last remaining males in Western countries, specially in Spain, who enjoy the prerogatives of traditional gentlemen, who do not get involved in household matters because that is the business of the women of the family or, in the present case, of his sisters in the apostolate. Still, a certain percentage of Opus Dei women have responded to the new educational imperative and run schools for girls. In any case, few of them exercise any secular profession independently or have university studies, something obligatory for male numeraries. Escrivá mandated stricter observances for women numeraries. Thus, among other things, women sleep on planks and used to have to ask permission to drink water between meals, although the latter rule was recently abolished. Needless to say, women count for little in internal government and limit themselves to applying the resolutions taken by male authorities.
The massive dedication to teaching produces a modification of foundational goals. No longer does one imagine the permeation of all sectors of civil society by Opus Dei members in the manner of an intravenous injection according to the founder’s metaphor. Rather, efforts are focused on the education of children and adolescents. The control of so many educational institutions opens new avenues of influence. For one thing, these centres are conceived as tools for indoctrination. Encouraged by a militant Pope and fed by cyclical Church conservatism, Opus Dei teachers work to convince their students of the importance of maintaining the hierarchical structure of a traditional family, principal cell of the desired organic society. Anti‑Communists during the Cold War, they are enthusiastic supporters of the pro‑life movement. The head of the movement in Spain is a numerary. A new counter reformation eases the Work’s apostolates. Some of its priest hold Church posts related to censorship and prosecution of excessively independent theological thinkers. This situation has rendered superfluous any specifically Opus Dei doctrine or theology, since the task becomes maintenance of the Tridentine message as currently reworked by the Vatican. Accordingly, the Prelature has few theologians worthy of the title. The few who attempted to be genuine theologians have left, as Raymond Panikkar, or died, as Alfredo García. The world of Opus Dei has progressively more to do with group discipline, with control of behavior, and less with religion or theology, even though Opus Dei runs Theological Colleges in Pamplona and Rome basically specialized in moral theology and canon law.
Escrivá was infuriated with the openness of the Second Vatican Council. After the fashion of Cardinal Lefevre and other traditionalist leaders, he laid down directives which lead to clear doctrinal fundamentalism and to an explicit or tacit alliance with ultra‑conservative social forces. Escrivá’s obsession with Vatican innovations put him in continual conflict with other church leaders. Before he died it seems that he declared to his “children” that, as things stood, Opus Dei was the only group faithful to the Gospel, that Biblical remnant of Israel to which God confided the mission of returning the flood waters to their channel.
Like other contemporary Catholic institutions, at a given moment Opus Dei posed the question of the clash between Gospel principles of charity and solidarity and the rules of capitalist society; Opus Dei chose the side of individual success in market competition. For thirty years, its well known business school, the IESE or Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa, in Barcelona, with branches in Latin America, has trained carefully selected students in American management techniques to become managers and executives. In this vein, the prominent numerary and former President of the Spanish bankers’ association Rafael Termes recently published Antropología del capitalismo (Plaza y Janés, 1994), in which he attempts to prove the natural, almost sacred character of the economic system in which he believes as firmly as the creed.
The Work’s schools have a good reputation among Spanish middle class parents for their competence and advising system. They carry on the mixture of cooperation and complicity with families and the creation of social class bonds among students which characterized Jesuit education. A Jesuit told a friend of mine that General Pedro Arrupe commented, “Seeing what they are today, I see what we were yesterday, and never should have been.” But in this success are the seeds of new conflicts. A large part of the Catholic world accuses Opus Dei of acting as a kind of cult among young people. Nor could it be otherwise. The directors of Opus Dei have had to modify their proselytizing strategy for recruitment of numeraries in current social circumstances. In the first stage numeraries came from the university and it was frowned upon or even forbidden that boys should go to Opus Dei houses. A vocation was for men!
In recent decades, however, proselytism has become difficult at universities. It is easier to use the network of Opus Dei schools and the atmosphere of supernumerary homes to convince children of fifteen or even younger that God calls them to total, lifelong dedication. Recruitment becomes an obsession for teachers who are obligated to get at least two people a year to join, to make them “whistle”. Consequently, they do not let their pupils alone in advising sessions and in confession. Collaborators in the campaign are other pupils who have already been recruited and are equally obsessed. The watchword is to increase numbers: "let there be more of us". Harassment is such that an American Catholic organization, ODAN, Opus Dei Awareness Network, has been formed to defend families from Opus Dei. Also, A Parents’ Guide to Opus Dei has been written by J. J. M. Garvey (Sicut Dixit Press) and translated to several other languages. Opus Dei is a more or less accepted feature of the Spanish landscape, where there seems to be less awareness of the danger of indoctrination of children, but organizations like AIS in Cataluña evaluate and offer information about sects, and frequently receive requests for help against Opus Dei’s indoctrination of children. The secretive, intimidating style of recruitment continues after the child or adolescent joins Opus Dei. He or she is distanced from family and friends; reading materials are restricted; schedules, choice of studies, and place of residence are imposed; consciences are manipulated; members are controlled professionally and economically; Opus Dei becomes a Spanish, Catholic version of hermetic, sects in which religion works basically as bait to attract new members. (See my "Sectas católicas: El Opus Dei", in Revista Internacional de Sociología, 1992). Of course, all this contradicts the self description of Opus Dei members as ordinary Christians, free laymen, with completely normal family and professional relations. As an aggrieved mother said: "If they preach traditional family values so much, why do they treat their own families so badly?" A recent book, Hijos en el Opus Dei, by Javier Ropero (Ediciones B, 1993) depicts this situation from the perspective of one who has suffered it and subsequently reflected about it.
Logically, the majority of these young Opus Dei members leave as soon as they open their eyes to reality. But many undergo great conflicts of conscience; they suffer situations of stress from which they emerge with mental and physical scars. Two sisters from the Basque Country speak with horror in private of the psychological pressure and use of drug therapies in the University of Navarre Clinic; they are so frightened that they refuse to give their names or speak publicly.
Economic control of members parallels psychological manipulation. Escrivá patterned the life of his numeraries along the lines of religious orders with vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These are feasible when a monk or friar abandons the world, but are extraordinarily complicated for a professional, businessman, or simply a person who administers property. Complicated rules govern how numeraries handle money, which effectively establish a kind of control by superiors of the Work even over inherited property. Unlike supernumeraries who only contribute ten percent of their income, numeraries must hand over all the money they earn and withdraw from the local treasury only what they need for short periods. Consequences are especially bleak when someone leaves the organization, which gives no further support of any kind.
Opus Dei does not even register the women whose task is housework in the Spanish Social Security system although they are starting to do it after so many pressures. Many men and women have had to start their lives over from scratch, without the money they contributed to Opus Dei and even without inheritances from their family that they found themselves forced to cede to the institution. This logically leads to fear of risking such penury by leaving; it also engenders perseverance based on resignation if not cynicism.
The reaction of Opus Dei leaders has been particularly violent toward members who left the institution and did not maintain silence. The cases of two Spanish female ex‑numeraries have been especially striking. The first, María Angustias Moreno was the object of a campaign of defamation and was branded as a lesbian for having written a book criticizing (from an orthodox Catholic viewpoint) Escrivá de Balaguer’s personality cult. (El Opus Dei. Anexo a una historia, Planeta, 1976).The second, María del Carmen Tapia, a former Women’s Branch superior, has been demonized by her erstwhile companions because she dared to offer a
detailed description of the despotic, arbitrary mode of government under Escrivá, to whom she was an aide in Rome (Beyond the Threshold. A Life in Opus Dei, Continuum, 1997). The book, originally published in Spanish, has been translated to German, French, Portuguese, English, and Italian. Opus Dei’s leadership has forbidden even the mention of these books within the Work and a fortiori does not allow that they be read. This situation has engendered
widespread criticism among Catholic women, religious and laity, who judge that the Opus Dei Women’s Branch demeans women’s place in the Church.
Many bishops, notably the late Cardinal Basil Hume of London, have complained to Rome about Opus Dei. They have received only private acknowledgments, because the Curia is aware of the Pope’s special fondness for the Work, and in a hierarchical society like the Catholic
Church it is not usual to contradict authority. But it would suffice for the next Pope to be less benevolent, for the old clerical animosity against the Prelature to bloom again. A contributing factor is the arrogance with which Opus Dei members behave when they can use influence to slander and crush an adversary. There are many scores to be settled in the long‑standing struggles for Vatican power. Meanwhile, the sectarian character of the Prelature is starting
to be recognized by civil authorities. In 1997, an investigative Commission of the Belgian Parliament included Opus Dei in its list of groups which are dangerous for young people, taking into account among other things the protest of many families whose children have been the object of Opus Dei’s implacable proselytism.
Opus Dei’s directors had high hopes when the Partido Popular assumed control of the government in Spain. Early results are discouraging. No Opus Dei member obtained ministries the Prelature considered important, Education in particular, although the numerary Andrés Ollero, worked hard to obtain it. Some leaders of the Partido Popular become uneasy when they are accused of being subject to Opus Dei influence. And in fact Opus Dei has also inherited the bad reputation for political manoeuvring that the Jesuits had in past times. Members of diverse Catholic groups including some Jesuits as well as a few bishops are discontent that the Partido Popular has entrusted the direction of Ecclesiastical Affairs to a man close to Opus Dei. The appointment of the canonist Alberto de la Hera will doubtless guarantee the harmony between the government and Vatican as long as the present regimes last in Rome and Madrid. Opus Dei has a greater public impact in the business world through the hundreds of managers and entrepreneurs it has educated, who share Termes’ faith in the market and prefer that the State interfere in sexual rather than other matters.
Alberto Moncada holds a doctorate in law from the University of Madrid and studied sociology and economics in London. He was recruited by Opus Dei in 1950 and in the 1960s participated in the creation of Opus Dei’s first Latin American University in Piura, Peru, as its founding Pro-Rector. He left Opus Dei at that point and has taught Sociology and Education in European and American universities since then. He also worked as a consultant for UNESCO, OEA and the Council of Europe. He has published some 30 books. Those dealing with religious topics include Historia oral del Opus Dei, La Zozobra del milenio, and Religión a la carta. Moncada sociological analysis of Opus Dei is widely quoted in the media and he was asked to give his deposition in the process of beatification of Escriva.
CATHOLIC SECTS: OPUS DEI –Alberto Moncada
(English version of the paper presented at the XII World Congress of Sociology, Madrid, 1990, published in “Revista Internacional de Sociología”, Madrid, 1992)
1. Catholic Church and Non-Catholic Sects.
In late 1989, the Spanish Catholic Church issued a statement warning the faithful against sects, new religious movements with eastern roots, which began to proliferate in Spain. Two years before, in November, 1987, the First International Congress on Sects and Society took place in Barcelona. Its Proceedings reflect the judgments of experts from several countries, particularly the United States, where it seems that religious and political fundamentalism and the process of social disintegration combine with a kind of free market model for religions, to contribute to the flowering of this type of movement.
The arrival of these groups in Europe provoked a resolution of the European Parliament in 1984, which urged member governments to take measures to identify them and protect the more vulnerable citizens, particularly children and young people. The Spanish Government created a parliamentary commission for this purpose in 1988. Its recommendations were adopted by the full Congress and mandate a number of steps in accordance with the European Parliament resolution.
The recent declaration of the Spanish Church is similar to one made by the bishops of the west of Ireland in 1983. The latter recalls previous Church documents and contains three main themes. First, it repeats common sociological teaching about the nature and danger of sects. Second, it laments that sometimes the Church's own failings lead Catholics to seek in sects what the Church ought to have provided them. Third, It tries to distance the Church from these new religious movements, as it calls them, to avoid the more pejorative label of "sect".
Research into Christian sources of contemporary sectarianism has produced some European literature like Massimo Introvigne's recent Le sette cristiane (Mondadori, 1989), which complements work done mostly by scholars from the United States, concerning the syncretism between Christianity and oriental religions, and its connection to broad social developments, which is particularly manifested as nostalgic revivalism, the new kind of western fundamentalism.
The Spanish document also reveals a tactical concern. In Spain like other traditional Catholic countries, the Church witnesses the spread of more or less Christian, often syncretistic, cults, which direct their efforts to a broad popular audience, particularly in rural areas. This has always occurred in the Caribbean and Brazil, but now has more Protestant, North American overtones. An example might be Mexico or to a lesser extent Central America, where the Jehova's Witnesses and similar organizations have won over significant numbers of rural Catholics, satisfying their thirst for emotional piety and community membership. At one point, the Catholic Church requested that the Mexican Government suppress this missionary activity, although that traditionally anticlerical goverment was more interested in impeding the antinationalist tendencies of the sectarian indoctrination than in setting up obstacles to its religious proselytism. The Pope's most recent trip to Mexico has been interpreted in this light as denominational "marketing".
In fact, the official Catholic Church no longer has its former influence in rural areas because of lack of clergy and other causes, especially the Vatican's doctrinal hostility to the liberation theologians, politically committed to the poor.
Precisely here is where some sociologists see a distinction among the new religious movements, the sects (Cf. C. Coulter, Are Religious Cults Dangerous?, Mercier Press, 1986). The sects with Protestant roots direct themselves primarily to the poor. Although the sects with Catholic roots share some traits with the former, such as sentimental pietism, they tend to reinforce class and traditionalist inclinations of their members.
2. Catholic Sectarianism. Opus Dei.
Neither the Spanish Church nor the Holy See has addressed intra-ecclesial sectarianism. A certain amount of theological literature dependent on sociology exists, which examines intra-ecclesial groups in the light of Weber's well known distinction between church and sect. Recently, the Canadian scholar Turcotte has attempted to pursue Ernst Troeltsch's analysis of ecclesiastical group dynamics (Paul Andr‚ Turcotte, C.S.V., "L'Eglise, la secte, la mystique et l'ordre religieux" in Eglise et Theologie, 20, 1989). However, one thing is theory, the other is government action. Vatican centralism does not allow group dissidence, but radical rightist groups and fundamentalisms are tolerated if they are faithful to Rome. Rebellious movements like that of Lefevre, fundamentalist rather than sectarian, are either brought back to the fold or expelled from communion with the Church. Ecclesiastical politics also plays a role today in protecting institutions like Opus Dei, whose historical development presents an increasingly sectarian character. When Catholic prelates like the Archbishop of Westminster, observers, and critics of Opus Dei sectarianism, have attempted to exert influence in Rome to control it, they have not encountered favourable response in Rome except in private.
Furthermore, one must observe that societies like that of Spain where Opus Dei was born and has chiefly flourished, do not seem disposed to confront native phenomena with the same vigour they show towards the imported variety. Even Spanish analysts of sects show a kind of timidity induced by their environment. Of the two most recent books (Pilar Salarrullana, La Sectas. Un testimonio vivo sobre los mes¡as del terror en Espa¤a, Ediciones Temas de Hoy, 1990 and Pepe Rodríguez, El poder de las sectas, Ediciones B. Zeta, 1989) only the second labels -very much in passing- the Work's activities as sectarian.
However, the truth is that according to any of the usual scientific criteria and even with the definition of the Spanish Catholic Church ("Groups unwilling to dialogue, who proselytize unscrupulously, and shelter themselves in ambiguity and mystery"), Opus Dei would fit perfectly on the list of dangerous sects which appears in published works and which is the basis upon which the civil authorities of some countries act to assist victims.
It is quite true that the sectarian character of the Work, which was present in embryo in the foundational project, has been accentuated during the course of time, especially in proselytism with children. (See Alberto Moncada, Historia oral del Opus Dei, Plaza & Jan‚s, 1986).
3. The Evolution Of Opus Dei.
During the 1930s and 1940s O. D.’s founder, José María Escrivá, invited university students to re-Christianize science and Spanish culture, contaminated, in his view, by modern European intellectual trends. Europe and modernity became the fundamental intellectual targets of the victors after the Civil War. This earliest proposal by Escrivá' is embodied in his book Camino (The Way) and was carried out in apostolic practice. Thus, Escrivá’s first proselytes were primarily young men with university studies begun, if not completed, who predominantly devoted themselves to the university and competed, at times violently, for chairs and research posts in Spanish higher education.
The prototype of a numerary was an intellectual with good manners. The first Constitution emphasized this one needed by requiring a university degree to join the Work. Women, who were to devote themselves to domestic labours, only needed to possess that set of bourgeois virtues which Escrivá summed up as: "It is enough for them [women] to be discrete" (Camino, # 946).
During the mid-50s this changes. Escrivá needed power and money to fuel his apostolic expansion, to respond effectively to hostile groups, and above all, to struggle more successfully for Vatican approval. To this end, the superiors promoted careers in Spanish finances and politics for people of confidence, celibate numeraries and also married supernumeraries. This was later repeated in Italy, Portugal, France, and Latin America.
The paradigm of a member was then no longer the academician, but the business executive, the manager. This transformation coincided with a relative failure of the intellectual campaign, as doctrinal censorship of members’ scholarly work increased and also because the urgencies of apostolic work mitigated against an atmosphere that could favour creative research.
The change of archetype broke the pattern of observance which Escriv had designed for the celibate members. The O. D. numerary is obliged to observe certain precepts, practices copied from the life of perfection of religious institutions like the Society of Jesus. Not in vain did Escriva have Jesuits as spiritual directors! The Opus Dei numerary had and still has to sustain an extensive and intensive life of prayer and other observances, under very strict vows of poverty -he hands over his income and prepares detailed expense accounts- chastity, and obedience. The obedience is both intellectual, in the acceptance of ideological indoctrination, and practical, regarding the manner of organizing his life and his profession. That was not very difficult to attain when members were students or professors, but it begins to be harder with business men and politicians.
Here the problems began. Some were internal -conflicts of observance and accounting; others were external- attributing to the superiors the political and commercial responsibilities of members. That is the essence of the widespread criticism against the Work during the 1970s. Accused of complicity with Franco in politics and of capitalist mentality, it sees its canonical status and social image in danger.
Accordingly, and also for practical reasons, O. D. abandons direct commercial activity during the 1970s, the so called common works or auxiliary societies. It tries to regroup its external manifestations and concentrates on two new activities: first, education of children, which was new in the sense that Escrivá did not envisage it in his foundation although he ended by valuing it, and second, the defence of traditional Catholicism.
The assumption of these new goals coincides with a certain withdrawal of religious congregations, including the Jesuits, from the education of the wealthy classes, where O. D. replaces them, and with the elevation to the throne of St. Peter of a favourable Pope. The Pope grants the desired status of ecclesiastical autonomy and uses O. D. along with the very recent populist movement Communione e Liberazione (Communion and Liberation) as the shock troops of his doctrinal neo-conservatism.
4. Education and Sectarianism.
A by product of their concentration on education is the opportunity which opens up to Opusdeists to proselytize boys and girls in their schools. The boys and girls compensate for the loss or diminution of university audience which is less disposed nowadays to join the Work or any similar organization.
More or less conservative fathers and mothers, enthusiasts for old fashioned pedagogical discipline, when not themselves members of the Work, entrust the education of their children to O. D. It can thus influence them from a tender age and bring them closer to a vocation, in the tradition of other ecclesiastical mentors, whose strategy used to be criticized by the early O. D..
The expectation of great results overrules the early precautions about proselytism, which is aimed today mostly at grammar school children rather than at university or even high school students. The pupils are prepared little by little for their formal incorporation as celibate Opus Dei members. To be sure, general principles of canon and civil law forbid this incorporation before the age of eighteen. However, in this as in other aspects of its activity, Opus Dei practice has discovered how to combine external respect for the law with functional pragmatism which allows it, for instance, to snare the youngsters in emotional complicity in their own loss of independence, all the while proclaiming neutrality and concern about the freedom of the affected children to parents concerned about premature decisions.
“To this end, there has even been a little legal change”, tells Javier R., a university student who entered the Work at sixteen and left five years later. “Now there exists the status of aspirant numerary, which one enters at sixteen; but in fact, the bond is the same”.
Given this scenario and amid the spread of Opus Dei schools during the 1980s, we get the raw material for sectarianism among children. There is a parallel adult version, since O. D. has made contact with part of the Catholic sector unwilling to open itself to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, disposed to a kind of militant, emotional fidelity apparently discarded by the Church until John Paul II became Pope, but which have been embraced by him.
The oscillations of Opus Dei strategy disconcert even old militants. "The Father explicitly told us that the Work would not have schools or its own companies. Shortly after he died, the only obvious apostolate is education, and the most striking public image, the number of people embarked on commercial and political adventures organized in the 1950s," confesses one of those early members, who has voluntarily abandoned the new debacle.
In the light of the early experience, it is as shocking to contemplate old professors, yesteryear committed to the intellectual redemption of Spain, today pursuing youngsters who could be their grandchildren in a curious exercise of spiritual pederasty, as it is to see the boards of Spanish banks filled with celibate numeraries, whose vows of poverty and chastity, not to speak of obedience, ends by contributing to the good health of the financial system.
Whatever the meanders of Opus Dei history, the sectarian character of its realization is obvious to observers inside and outside the Church, as the principal defining characteristic of the new stage.
5. Profiles of Opus Dei Sectarianism.
The Barcelona Congress made it clear that the primary danger of sectarianism is that essentially it narrows very profound tendencies in human nature, like the need to belong, and also that in one or another form, almost all social groups have certain sectarian traits. When sectarianism has a religious basis, the possibility of its implantation in personalities which are not necessarily unintelligent, is much greater. The special psychological situation of the young, their lack of experience, exploitable credulity, and immature idealism increase that risk. Although the passage of time and acquisition of lucidity may resolve the blockage and conflicts produced by early affiliation to Opus Dei, the balance may be costly for many and irreparable in some cases.
As occurs with other sects, O. D. leaders rely on that need to belong, which for most people takes normal channels, the family, love affairs, friendships, political affiliation, and voluntary associations. O. D. fulfils all those functions for its celibate members, and this is brought out especially by the usual description that the Work inculcates in its adherents.
“The Work is above all and before all a family”. The appropriation of family ties and loyalties to other social groups is not Escriva’s invention. It is a simplified way of instilling social cohesion, which has been used both by organizations which try to exploit unconditional adhesion of their members as well as by subcultures lacking hegemony. For example, the Italian mafia has served both to replace political power in the undeveloped South, and to organize a secret army to guarantee the supply of illegal goods and services in urban North American.
The notion of family is basic to O. D. ideology and operation. The supreme head is the Father. After Escriva’s death, the denomination is applied to his successors. At the bottom of the reasons for doing what they do, members allude to the primary tie, and the main result is to lessen their rationality and the legality of internal covenants and external activity. “The Father has said it, the Father wants it”, are arguments to legitimate procedures which are morally very dubious.
Since one must be submissive to the Father and those who stand in his stead, and even “sacrifice one’s judgment”, the negation of individual rights is plain. “The only right of the members of the Work is to fulfil their duty”, says one of Escriva’s maxims, in which he combines family patterns with a military overtone, something very dear to him. “Military people, just because they are that, have half our vocation already”, he used to say.
The double family and military paradigm translates into the establishment of an organization which is at once informal and rigidly hierarchical. Decision processes, creation of internal opinion, or the nature of the tie between leader and subject are clearly authoritarian and one dimensional. Just as in the Army, “the regular channel” is the model for communication.
The Work's bourgeois family structure is manifested in daily circumstances derived from the requirement of “family life” imposed on numerary. Escrivá did not achieve the management of household tasks through the distinction between priests and lay brothers traditional in many male religious orders. Nor did he instil self sufficiency for modern life in his male members. Instead, he tried to canonize female domestic service by writing in the first Constitution that the women of modest social status who do the household work in the houses of numeraries “are and are called servants”, as if in a kind of servile state of perfection. Although the term has disappeared, the way of treating maids continues, a mixture of paternalism and the denial of rights, especially economic rights (See the statements of Maria del Carmen Tapia in Historia oral).
The utilization of the concept of family also identifies Opus Dei with western fundamentalist organizations, which seem to aspire to replace the functioning of modern society composed of individuals, by relations between families and clans. In the last analysis, a nostalgia for the old order, Medieval Christendom, also is present in the organic vision of so many other sects.
From another perspective, the notion of the family as a social and economic agency is part of the present conservative campaign for the reduction of the role of the State. Furthermore, the notion that man is a function of his domestic sphere, explains the double standard of so many fundamentalists, ignorant or lettered, who are implacable critics of private vices, although they frequently incur in them, and tolerant with public vices.
“How many times have I been scandalized”, tells a former O. D. priest, “that supernumeraries justified professional immorality, aggressive business practices, or tax evasion, because they had to feed and maintain the standard of living of their large families!”.
Similarly, a bishop here and there has grumbled that in those multitudinous audiences in which the present Pope exhibits his talent as an actor, the preamble consists of the exaltation of the family and tradition to an enflamed young audience, frequently put together by O. D. members.
As in other sects, a cult of childishness is at the heart of the Opus Dei indoctrination under the name of “spiritual childhood” (Escriva, Camino, number 859 ff). Whereas the puerility of adults, which tends to be part of the emotional dynamics of totalitarian systems, becomes comic, the corruption of young people is at times tragic.
As so many people who have left the Work explain, its directors have the same narrow, authoritarian concept present in the inner structure of other sects. It is enough to contradict the person in charge or have a personal opinion about apostolate, or question doctrine or tactics, for those who until now called themselves your brothers to turn into your denouncers or even enemies, when they do not become indifferent toward someone who had been their companion for years. In the Work loyalty only functions upwards, and conversations between "brothers" must always safeguard the hegemony of the authorities. Critical commentaries are "in bad spirit" and special relations that existed before or after becoming a member must be repressed to avoid even the appearance of "particular friendship:". As in so many convents of friars and nuns, in so many organizations composed of unmarried people, this engenders constant hypocrisy, pretence and duplicity.
In the regime of O. D. numeraries there is a shower of prescriptions and customs similar to those of other sects. There is domestic discipline, suffocating external control, and even police vigilance. Many norms, like the prohibition against female secretaries for male members or of frequenting public recreational facilities including sports stadiums, or the prohibition against woman smoking or wearing slacks, are no more than picturesque application to the men and women of Opus Dei of the cultural prejudices and obsessions of the Founder. The norms that affect economic and spiritual dependence are more serious.
O. D. numeraries hand over all their income including their inheritance to the organization. The latter authorizes and keeps track of their expenses. Although certain exemptions are granted, members who are business men or professionals, the great majority live under a regime of scrupulous accounting and supervision by superiors, which includes the prohibition of having their own bank account and the obligation to make wills in favour of the Work in the name of a straw.
The obligation of naming another numerary as one's heir which accompanies the ceremony of fidelity or perpetual vows has bizarre results. Since one usually names as heir senior, reliable numeraries, some members, like Rafael Termes, ex president of the association of Spanish bank owners, is the designated in a large number of Opus Dei testaments.
Any claim to similarity between this situation and that of "ordinary faithful" with absolute freedom and autonomy, which Opus Dei assures its members enjoy, is laughable. "How can people presume to have freedom, who even accept that their leaders read the letters that they receive before they do?" wondered recently the angry father of a numerary, when he was informed about this odd custom.
Control by Opus Dei authorities used to extend to the majority of companies in which members worked. "From Rome they would demand minute doctrinal and financial accounting for the common works," explains Jos‚ de Saralegui, an ex-numerary who worked in Opus Dei magazine publishing (see Historia oral). After the changes initiated during the 1970s, the control only affects one part, activities labelled corporative, although one can detect few differences between a school which is proclaimed corporative and another one administered by members on behalf of their own leadership and clientele.
The rhythm of O. D. economic activities is more like that of a mafia than a sect. Since the 1950s members help each other in public and private business, they choose members of the Work, "los de casa", as collaborators and confidential employees. They open their checking accounts in friendly banks, and, as became obvious in the Rumasa scandal, they take advantage of the Opus Dei connection to promote corporative interests. There is nothing that similar organizations do not do; this is nothing special in the texture of western capitalism, but it is disconcerting for Catholics of good will, who looked for a greater Opus Dei presence in the moral improvement of public life.
"It was impossible, both because of pressure from the Father to obtain funds urgently and because of personal ambition of the protagonists," confesses Antonio Pérez, one of the most important early leaders (Historia oral). The contribution of O. D. politicians, professional and business men to strengthen the most rugged type of capitalism appears in recent history of countries like Spain and Chile, and follows the pattern of old collusion between capital and ecclesiastical interests denounced by prophetic voices. That is not particularly important, except to round out the professional and social profile of the adult member of Opus Dei, who after his indoctrination as a child and youth, has little concern for social change, nor does he participate in the efforts of labour unions, nor does he even work in public charitable organizations. The usual thing is to see him on the board of directors of banks and industries, in the most self-serving sector of the professions, and in rightist parties and governments, besides, of course, in the armed forces and education. Women, for their part, whether single or married, professionals or house wives, gravitate toward the bourgeois feminine patterns exemplified in the Spanish magazine Telva published by female members.
What is authentically sectarian is one's spiritual trajectory. From the time he enters the Work, a member is forbidden to go to confession with any priest who does not belong to the institution and is authorized to hear confessions. An ample literature on the theme of the "good shepherd" and the slogan of "washing dirty linen at home" legitimates the sealing off of members’ consciences from the outside and makes mental control by superiors more simple. O. D. priests, furthermore, employ information received in the confessional to design the strategy to be followed with candidates for membership, in a sui generis interpretation of the secret of confession. To further tighten the circle of mental dependence and group loyalty, all members must make a weekly "confidence" similar in nature to confession, with the director of their house or centre, its lay head, in which the most explicit sincerity is encouraged toward people who lack priestly ordination and frequently experience.
The cult of confession is highlighted at the basilica of Torreciudad, Arag¢n, where there are dozens of confessionals. All the pilgrims to this particular place of exaltation of the Father, are encouraged to make confession the culmination of their spiritual excursion.
"In some sense," comments a well informed psychiatrist, "it is the consequence of the climate of guilt maintained by fundamentalists cults. To have a bad opinion about oneself, to believe that only help of others will make one behave well, self humiliation as a group tactic: these are typical traits of an Augustinian moral stance which leads to that utilization of frequent confession as permanent self inculpation, which in turn finishes by creating a dependency, an addiction. It produces, on the one hand, either serious pessimism about mankind, or, on the other, a sort of person without moral scruples because everything can be fixed in confession."
“In what concerns ex-numeraries of O. D.”, the psychiatrist continues, "I have had in my office men who have reached the age of thirty in the belief that their worst sin, their greatest infraction of the moral order was masturbation. On occasion I have had to actually reconstruct moral awareness in persons who had not been accustomed to exercise ethical options in a social context of inter-subjective interests, which is where they acquire psychological relevance. The absolute surrender of these people to the judgment of their superiors makes it difficult for them to reach maturity. The normal 'construction of the self' has not taken place in their lives. Frequently, what there is, what remains, under their surrender is tremendous narcissism, ethical childishness, with great deficiencies and gaps. Besides, there is a healthy asceticism, especially if one sacrifices oneself for others, but for people who in the last analysis do not have the tranquillity of convent life, O.D.'s ascetic practices constitute a series of irritations. However much they are sublimated, and except for cases of strong personality, they eventually produce ill humoured, easily excitable types, unbalanced by habitually going contrary to their natural inclinations. With frequency, it is other people who have to pay."
In May, 1990, I heard from an ex numerary who had gone to confession with a priest of the Work, an old friend, after many years. At the end, the priest encouraged him to return and even said: "Call me even at night, if you have problems," alluding to that feeling of guilt which obsesses so many Opus Dei members regarding nocturnal emission,
The incapacity of numeraries to understand and manage their sexuality, their sentiments, is similar to that of many religious or celibate ecclesiastics, who upon leaving their state find it difficult to adapt themselves to a committed relationship or to emotional loyalties. "A long time passed for me even to become familiar with my body, toward which I had the typical reticence which was recommended to us in the Work," explains an ex numerary. Those same frequently very young numeraries have to counsel married supernumeraries about their conjugal lives.
At the local level because of their exaggerated loyalty, it is precisely persons who are most fanatic and most zealous about the Work's regulations, who are entrusted with power. Especially, when they are young, this leads to authentic violations of human rights, or even worse, to systematic self denial of such rights.
Spiritual direction, in sum, becomes a mechanism to exploit the energies of members in benefit of the Work. Only thus can one understand the expansion and intensity of the corporative accomplishments in the group's very brief history.
Naturally, the price is to progressively reduce humans to robots, who execute one dimensional strategies to attain old objectives of the most traditional Catholicism, so often interpreted through the caprices and obsessions of whoever is in charge at the moment. The Work's unwritten history includes a vast inventory of things which Escriv and other superiors forced so many members of the Work to do in the name of apostolic efficacy, of exhausting proselytism, of financial urgencies. In historical perspective, they were exercises of pure corporative masochism.
The profile of a young Opus Dei member, especially of that great majority which enters in the round of indoctrination as a child and then goes on to teaching or internal bureaucracy, responds to the characteristics of what Hoffer calls "the true believer) The True Believer, Harper, 1951).
From his unconditional dedication with his planning book and time organized in the "confidence" during the early years, the Opus Dei member develops a simplistic, Manichean attitude toward life, which leads him to be extremely intolerant and generally obsessive.
Internal regulations about the sources of information also influence this. The institute's organs of spiritual direction unceasingly send the centres and houses documents and papers on the most varied themes to orient members with "good doctrine".
Members are practically forbidden to read anything but specialized professional literature without the superiors' permission, and even professional matters are ideologically tinted. Recently a numerary who had to read the Communist Manifesto because of his studies, was provided with an expurgated version. The organization's Index of Forbidden Books is longer than the Church's abolished version. There is rigorous control over newspapers and magazines which enter houses of the Work. They run the gamut "from ABC to the right" comments a Spanish journalist ex member. Television programs are previously selected by the head of the house. and friendships outside the Work are judged above all in function of apostolate.
The rules apply especially to celibate male and female members. Married members, who constitute that longa manus by which Escriv hoped to transform society, have a somewhat more relaxed regime, although given the Institute's spiritual physiognomy there are not many intellectuals, artists, nor members of critical or creative professions among them. Physicians, engineers, lawyers, officers, and business men predominate. Since married men are directed spiritually by bachelors, they come to share their prejudices and obsessions.
6. The Dangers of Sectarianism.
With the passage of time in such an enclosed frame of reference, the personalities of those who are supposed to be in the middle of the world gradually deteriorate toward schizophrenia. In this regard it is interesting to note how the chief of psychiatry of the University of Navarre Clinic during the 1960s, himself an O.D. member, left the University and the Work because he refused to simply sedate into conformity all the members who arrived their with personal crises. Depressions, anguish, and moral and psychological conflicts are very frequent among male and female numeraries, both because of all kinds of repressions to which they subject themselves and because of the need to constantly dissemble in and out of the Work. In Spain there are "trustworthy" psychiatrists, specialized in treating them. In those dumps for maimed life stories which are mental institutions, male and female O.D. numeraries and a priest here and there begin to abound. Their health pays the price of their manipulated psyches.
Some physicians are astonished by the stress which so many Opus Dei boys and girls suffer, despite the fact that their principal obligation is to study and that all of them insist their dedication is joyous. “Stress is a consequence, among other things, of the constant dissimulating toward the outside”, points out that university student cited above. “For example, in my first period, I was advised by my director to tell my parents that I was going to a library to study every afternoon, when in reality I was going to an O. D. club. To make that lie compatible with my own sense of honesty, every afternoon I headed for the library, and spent five minutes there before going to the club. These little daily tortures begin to stress you and only upon leaving and after consulting a psychiatrist, did I get back my peace of mind. I just read Steven Hassan’s recent book Combating Cult Mind Control (Inner Traditions International) and it recalled to me many things that happened in the Work”.
The community life of unmarried men and women is a model of disciplinary rigidity along conventional and military lines, although external middle class signs give the impression that they are ordinary citizens. "I could not bear the idea of growing old in that atmosphere", was the reason a numerary in his forties from Madrid gave for leaving. "To pretend to be happy and spend your life crying alone was one of my greatest torments in Opus Dei", confesses a numerary woman who left the Work at a relatively advanced age.
The temptation and sometimes the attempt at suicide is reported by other participants (statements by Miguel Fisac, in “Historia oral”).
These psychological costs of sectarianism are the principal grounds that drive celibate members to re-evaluate their lives. It is estimated that at least eight out of every ten Opus Dei youths abandon the organization as soon as they arrive at a sufficiently mature age to be able to clarify their internal contradictions, although neither O.D. nor the Church provide statistics about the entrances and departures, nor about practically any other topic. Still less do they open their sources of information to outside observers.
Besides, since internal criticism is not allowed and surfaces exclusively as problems of individuals, the result is the perseverance of a type of person who values loyalty more than reason, and tends to underline the emotional facets of his dedication. This can be detected in the quality of Opus Dei spiritual life.
"Our prayer was reduced to thinking and rethinking the words of the Father, who in the Work practically takes the place of God, and to make plans for apostolate", declares a Venezuelan ex-numerary woman.
Few people in O.D. publicly stand out because of the Gospel virtues of gentleness, charity, poverty, and altruism, which characterize Christians who overcome their personal selfishness to give themselves to others. O.D.'s personal and apostolic elitism is an explanation for this and the human profile of well known members emphasizes it. "Are you making so many sacrifices and so many prayers to end like ...?" a Madrid professor recently reproached a young numerary, mentioning a well known O.D. banker.
Yet, paradoxically, these public men of Opus Dei provide an institutional alibi against the charge of sectarianism. The great majority of men and women numeraries labour in internal activities or education and constitute the main vehicle of Opus Dei sectarianism. However, some men and women, acknowledged in each country as O.D. members, dedicate themselves to politics, finances, and the professions. They have to accept the rules of the game in their circles and seem normal, although usually very conservative. How they can sustain that double life, the combination of sectarian precepts and doctrines with behaviour adjusted to the secular society in which they act, is something they never explain, although it can be attributed to the dose of cynicism prevalent in so many mature Opus Dei members.
In fact it might be said, that in the regime for male O.D. numeraries there are two formulas: one full of rigor applies to the young and to those devoted to internal or strictly apostolic activities. The other is for those mature adults who have organized their professional life outside the Work and who have an implicit dispensation from many of the observances of the first group, justified by reasons of naturalness and efficacy. The young do apostolate, the old get money and influence, might sum up the division of labour.
"In reality," explains a Roman canonist, "Opus Dei has failed to create a model of lay apostolate. In their style of life and actions, the great majority resemble friars in civilian garb, and the others, the older non-clerical members, hardly show signs of having dedicated their lives to making the Gospel permeate civil society."
Recently, Spain has been witness of the strange spectacle of the banker José María Ruiz Mateos, whom O.D. presented to its clientele as a paradigmatic model of supernumerary because of his large family, his continual donations to the institution, his ability to find work for members and co-operators. Ruiz Mateos’ finances have been dismembered by the law and politics. His O.D. colleagues and leaders have finished by repudiating him. The controversy has brought into the light of day the peculiarities of spiritual direction, fraternity, settling of internal scores, jealously kept secrets of financing . To top it all off, we have an Opus Dei version of the traditional Spanish collusion between capital and the ecclesiastics, with trimmings of Andalusian folklore.
People of the Work are not very given to contemplation, to mysticism, to religious studies. Their centres of studies and publications hardly have theology worthy of the name, in the judgment of most experts. The consensus among the latter is that O.D. spirituality primarily produces agents of Vatican policy, repeaters of slogans, and specialists in canon law.
As a consequence of their increasing role as apologists for traditional doctrine, the members of O.D. are now distinguished by the vehemence of their condemnations of liberation theology and attempts at Church renewal. It is frequent to see young O.D. members in violent demonstrations against family planning clinics because the war against abortion or in favour of confessional education gives them the chance to prove their new vocation. In fact, the president of the Spanish anti-abortion campaign is an Opus Dei physician.
Some observers have suggested that in reality, O. D. people see their apostolate as a conquest of power in the Church in the conviction that when they are in charge, everything will be well. (Declarations of Raimundo Panikkar in “Historia oral”). One might get the impression that the ultimate goal of Opus Dei sectarianism would be to control Church government. In this sense, O.D. which is doctrinally very similar to Cardenal Lefevre's movement, is distinguished from it, because Lefevre defended traditional doctrine risking confrontation with the Vatican, while O. D. wants above all to enjoy papal favour.
The conception of the Papacy as an absolute monarchy, which characterizes the present curia, has been taken over by Opus Dei theologians with particular enthusiasm. That would also explain in part, the growing incorporation into O. D. of persons of rudimentary mentality, belonging to emerging social classes, in opposition to a certain social distinction of the early times. Inevitably, this is a fruit of the expansion of the organization into areas and layers of society which are favourable to its message.
This would also relate to the question about whether there exists a particular type of candidate for sectarianism, predisposed to it by temperament or background. In the light of the O.D. experience, one must reply that there is not so much a personality especially susceptible to uncritical indoctrination as a progressive clientelism among groups whose intellectual options are being reduced and whose religious options come to coincide with their intellectual options.
In this sense, members of Catholic, protestant, or oriental fundamentalist sects come to resemble each other, although they disagree and even contradict each other bitterly. Fanatics of any persuasion come to say that the end justifies the means and that intentions are what matters. With these two recipes, mankind has seen dreadful episodes of abuse at the hands of those who saw themselves, as O. D. people see themselves today, as the only trustworthy group, elected by God to interpret his plans and carry them out. According to Introvigne, psychologists insist that sectarianism is characterized by the belief that one possesses the truth which constitutes the only source of salvation. That facilitates the other two traits of aggressive proselytism and morbid dependence on the chief, the "father" (Le sette cristiane).
Some sociologists continue to maintain that the emptiness of the American model of society, with its materialism, its human ties based on primary groups or money, is the main trigger for the explosion of sectarian associations (See Proceedings of the Barcelona Congress, published by Asociación Pro Juventud). They add that the absence of secular moral projects like interclass solidarity, promotion of justice, or ecological ethics, favour the success of groups like Opus Dei. That, however, is a simplification of modern society, whose very fragmentation makes comprehensive analysis difficult. In any case, nostalgia or the promise of an organic society is visible in the sectarian message, and provides sustenance for many minds incapable of confronting the abysses and questions of human existence.
7. Civil Laws Regulating Sectarianism.
Turning from sociology to social policy, the question for legislators and moralists is how to avoid the proliferation and impact of sects like Opus Dei. The guarantee of the basic western right to association and commerce leaves a great deal of room for exploitation of credulity and psychological needs. Our society’s philosophical conception of freedom implies individual responsibility for one’s own life, and the impossibility that the authorities constantly watch over citizens’ personal or group adventures.
Furthermore, the majority of young people who go through sectarian periods are able to come out of them under their own power, if they have the opportunity to mature socially, to know other realities, to have varied experience. If they do not, they may perfectly well combine fanaticism with cynicism and constitute the inevitable fundamentalist sectors of our society which ultimately serve the status quo, although they claim to aspire to organic utopias.
It is curious to observe how Opusdeists or Moonies, who live in collectivized communities where individuals are strictly subordinated to leaders, share with capitalist ideologues profound hatred of communism and collectivism. That incidentally provides them with good contacts and good jobs in western political and economic nerve centres. Indeed, the professional education imparted with greatest success by Opus Dei centres is American style business management. There is no other explanation for the great number of companies which compete to hire its graduates. This contrasts with many other male and female members of religious orders or lay people in the Third World or the First, who resolve to defend the rights of the poor and the persecuted in the name of the Gospel, and are therefore disliked, persecuted, or even annihilated by the powers that be. These and other considerations prove that despite their best efforts, O.D. people and especially the leadership suffer from great confusion about their own activity, Church doctrine, and the role of religion in modern society. Except for the ascetic insistence on unconditional dedication, there are hardly any doctrinal guidelines for Opus Dei apostolic action, other than continuous and frequently useless predication of simple fundamentalism.
In any case, members of Opus Dei attain their fulfilment, their happiness in this peculiar manner, or so at least they affirm. The bad thing is that this happiness implies proselytism, not letting others alone. It seems as though they are not comfortable taking their own path and need to maintain a permanent posture of recruitment, not only to guarantee group survival but also to feel well psychologically. Certain psychiatrists who attend former Opus Dei members in Barcelona confirm that this is the consequence of basic insecurity. "I have reached the conclusion", one of them affirms, "that the goal of Opus Dei is pure reproduction, that there be more of them. They believe in quantity more than quality."
Public powers can limit sects by watching out for institutional deceit and aggressive proselytism, along the lines suggested by the European Parliament. Public identification of activities so that Opus Dei, for instance, can not shield itself under other misleading labels, and the protection of persons who are not adults along the lines indicated by the Archbishop of Westminster, for example, are valid formulas. In certain countries like Canada, the church hierarchy has already obliged O.D. to identify its activities, although the formula employed, "The responsibility for the doctrine and spiritual life of such and such a school or centre has been entrusted to Opus Dei", continues to be ambiguous and evade legal and management responsibility.
Until a very short time ago it was practically impossible, not just for ordinary people, but for clergymen, for many bishops, for the enormous majority of members, to know the association's Constitution, its regulations, and rules of the game. "Everything was oral, verbal, about 'trusting', about 'surrendering', the simplistic approach that 'things are going to go well', that 'the authorities are never mistaken'. That was true even when the letter of the hidden regulations imposed little by little extreme formalization of activities, a progressively more literal obedience", recalls a law professor and former member.
The obstinacy of journalists and an occasional disruptive bishop have produced some benefits by way of public clarification, but it is still very difficult to be precise about the nature of the bond that unites members with leaders, the effects of that bond, the way of resolving conflicts. It must be remembered that Opus Dei has gradually changed the letter of its regulations according to the strategy employed at different moments to obtain Vatican approval.
Three members of Opus Dei, Fuenmayor Gómez-Iglesias, and Illanes have recently published a book El itinerario jurídico del Opus Dei. Historia y defensa de un carisma (Eunsa, 1989). They apparently intend to respond to a book by Giancarlo Rocca, L’Opus Dei. Appunti e documenti per una storia (Edizione Pauline, 1985). The large tome does not cite Rocca nor other scholars who dissent from the Work. Moreover, it treats canonical documents selectively, and insists on sketching Escrivá in superhuman shades, as if at the age of twenty he had not only a distinct spiritual and moral vision of his foundation but also a juridical one as well. What is important for our purposes, is that this book hardly refers to internal law and less still does it clarify the reciprocal moral and legal relations between government and subjects. See in this context the Critical Note on the book, published by Rocca in the Jornal Claretianum, vol. XXIX, 1989.
The problem of uncertainty about the Opus Dei regime is aggravated in the case of children, because many families, many parents, send their children to O. D. schools and residences in search of structured education, assuming they will not be the object of moral coercion or that if they are, later stages of their life will let them overcome their extremism.
Numerous anecdotes on this subject have been gathered by the Asociación Pro Juventud of Barcelona, among others. Hundreds of fathers and mothers are first puzzled and then complain about the pursuit via telephone to which their sons and daughters are subjected by people who for them are simple classmates. They do not know that these classmates are probationary members, apprentices of the Work, and have promised to their leaders and colleagues to not leave those classmates alone and must explain each week how they carry out the pursuit.
Besides, many clients and users of O.D. services are unaware of the details of Opus Dei indoctrination and practice. Many others are not sufficiently sensitive about young people's right to privacy and to respect for their personality.
We noted at the outset that many political and civil organizations have sectarian traits in greater or lesser degree. At a given moment they also stimulate unconditional adherence and uncritical subordination. In such a climate, an organization permitted by the Church and even chosen by the present Pope, has a kind of absolute license to do its own thing and only be criticised privately by bishops and other responsible Church figures, who prefer not to risk their position within the Vatican structure on this account.
Furthermore, for a long time, in the not so distant Franco era, it was almost impossible for criticisms of the Work to appear in the Spanish press. Today, the peculiarly capitalist pressures that function within the means of communication, Vatican warnings, and full time dedication of a group of Opusdeists to manipulate information do not make things much easier.
Given the practice of Opus Dei subordination, it is advisable to underline its economic aspects. Institutionally, O.D. activities do not generally identify themselves. Its schools, activities, buildings, financial resources, and so forth are usually in the name of societies or foundations directed or owned by members or sympathizers. As long as those members and sympathizers respect group discipline, they obey the internal superiors and maintain various private pacts of subordination with them, such as signed sale agreements for shares of stock. That makes it especially difficult for people damaged by Opus Dei to bring legal action.
In personal terms, members and especially female members, who have worked for the Opus Dei for many years, leave without the right to any kind of accounting which would acknowledge their efforts, as is now customary in other apostolic organizations. "After thirty years of working practically for my food, I found myself outside with a couple of dresses in a suitcase for all of my possessions," narrates a numerary woman from Madrid.
Many members lack the information and even energy to pose the appropriate demands and even prefer to forget that stage of their life quickly. Frequently, the superiors suggest to those who leave that they should forget that stage of their life "as soon as possible" and give hints threatening their professional future if they try to make demands or "speak", thus engendering fears that many former members admit having in relation to their past.
Others, on the contrary, concerned about having to make their own way in life with no economic means when they are no longer young, accept forced perseverance as a lesser evil. "Where am I going to go at my years?", a mature clergyman of the Work recently confided to a friend.
The O. D. servants take with one hand the money they receive for their efforts in houses and centres of the Work and with the other they hand it over to the internal authorities. What is worse, they are not usually registered with social security and are even more unprotected than others if they leave their servile work. For María Rosa Boladeras, director of the Asociación Pro Juventud, these women are the most harmed by Opus Dei. "The majority joined believing they were going to obtain a diploma in hostelry and tourism and wound up washing plates and serving meals for Opus Dei men." "After eleven years, my best ability is to make little pastries," commented one of them. "They take vows that nobody explains to them legally, and when they come to our Association", Boladeras explains, "they are tremendously confused, especially about their own rights. They are kept under false pretences, something that they usually realize only when they leave."
These are internal human rights issues which deserve greater public investigation and protection, although one must admit that the legal and judicial structure in Spain and similar countries, does not afford much hope in this regard. In addition, it would seem that the Latin, Spanish culture is more authoritarian, less sensitive to manipulations of persons by groups. In contrast English speaking countries tend to protect individuals better. See, for example, the accusations and anecdotes about relations between members of the O.D. and their leaders, which appear in the interviews in the recent work by the Irish journalist Fergal Bowers, The Work. An Investigation into the History of Opus Dei and How It Operates in Ireland Today (Poobeg Press, 1989). Similar books have been published in England and Germany.
For the moment, legal protection, insistence on information, on publicity, sensitizing judicial and police authorities to this type of human rights violations, are the only practical way, the only line of defence against Opus Dei sectarianism, at least while the organizations continues to enjoy Vatican favour and the Vatican continues under present leadership.
APPENDIX. INFORMATION ABOUT OPUS DEI.
Secrecy is a quality shared by Opus Dei and other sects, more interested in propaganda or apologetics than information, and fearful that "bad news" may frighten the faithful flock. The pertinent strategy is very simple. On the one hand, the member hears that things about the Work, the good and the bad, must not transcend the family circle, by repeated slogans such as: "Dirty linen is washed at home", "One must not throw pearls to swine", and so forth. Members who practice "discretion" properly do not explain the nature of their ties in public nor give data about their personal and collective apostolate, nor even if they can help it, do they recognize that they are members of the Work.
The allegedly intimate nature of their vocation converts into something private, areas of life that other people do not hesitate to consider public, or at least not secret, so that most members develop an odd personality with unhealthy suspicion toward anybody who is not one of their own.
This mentality is of long standing. It comes from the foundational epoque in 1941 when Escrivá requested and obtained from the bishop of Madrid that the Regulations of the Work should be considered secret for reasons of humility and of efficacy. Even when that might be explained by the political climate of post Civil War Spain and the mentality of a young priest fearful of potential enemies, secrecy has accompanied the Work all during its history and constitutes one of its worse facets.
After the first approval of Opus Dei, the pressures from its leadership on the Holy See to keep its secrets are constant: not to inform bishops about its activities or regulations, not to have to give names or addresses. The 1950 Constitutions and supplementary documents like the Instruction of St. Gabriel and many internal notes and notifications become Byzantine on the topic of how Opus Dei activity must be kept secret, the zeal with which papers are to be stored, the oaths of silence taken by members of the internal bureacracy (See Historia oral).
In 1987, on the occasions of the Calvi scandal and the failure of the Banco Ambrosiano, a debate took place in the Italian Parliament and the Government was interrogated about Opus Dei secrecy. In consequence, the Vatican felt obliged to warn Opus Dei members and impose upon them the duty to reveal their affiliation when they are legitimately questioned, although to judge by subsequent events they have not paid much attention.
In a sense, for simple people, the secret of membership, the pleasure of belonging to something mysterious and selective are added attractions. However, too frequently, the defenders of Opus Dei secrecy are also defenders of bank secrecy, and the secrecy becomes, as in so many organizations, the way one hides manoeuvres and power pacts from public scrutiny or even from eyes of the interested, affected members.
"Someone might think," confesses an ex-numerary who is now a clinical psychologist, "that the secrets in the Work would be a way of keeping special formulas that give access to mystical union or prescriptions for smiling asceticism or even ways of cultivating virtues. When one finds out that secrecy serves to hide where we had money or who were the legal owners of stocks or to fulfil minute errands about management of lives and properties, one can only smile."
The tactical side of secrecy, that other people do not find out what you are going to do or how you are going to do it is a by product of those youthful fears of Escriv . He continued to maintain in confidence until he died, "that people don’t understand us, that one can’t trust anybody, that many people were after me". His conspiratorial mentality had a basic pessimism about human nature, if not just plain small town suspiciousness. However, Escrivá’s mentality also included, as some of those who surrounded him report, another factor, vanity. He thought he was very original in his foundation and feared people would copy him.
Another important consideration in the growth of Opus Dei secrecy is doubtless the number of compromising things that might be uncovered, like lists of likely contributors with their personal characteristics, summaries of conversations with bishops and so on. That also produced the expansion of internal bureaucracy, to which at present, according to reliable calculations, one of every three members of the Work belong.
The secrecy is sometimes childish. Many members understand undifferentiatedly as matters for discretion, apostolic, economic, and every day information, until they become strange beings for relatives and colleagues. This is particularly evident in the handling of telephone messages in residences, in mail, in their manner of lying about simple facts of address, family, and so forth.
More serious is that the organization’s markedly hierarchical nature leads superiors to compartmentalize information so that some members, including the majority of the young or married people, learn things that affect the Work or even themselves from outside sources.
Documents and government notes exchanged among the different levels of Opus Dei authorities are jealously guarded and the few people who have access to them emit several oaths of silence in that regard. Or again, leaders and subordinates always avoid public confrontation and discussion and do not usually attend to informational meetings, unless they are guaranteed the absence of criticism or critics. With an extraordinarily childish approach, directors and members in charge of the Work’s public relations, take it for granted that if they do not give information about internal matters, no one will obtain them, forgetting that there are many former members who have no reluctance to reflect in public about their own path and that there have also many witnesses and participants in the Work’s actions who do not think like it.
Therefore, it is now fairly easy to have reliable information about the nature and operation of the group based on declarations of different sources.
To label these sources as acting in bad faith, out of resentment, or traitors is another quality which O.D. shares with other sects.
In any case, the interested reader can inform him or herself sufficiently without the necessity of direct acquaintance. After a stage in which books and articles about the Work could be classified as apologetic or critical with hardly any shades of interpretation, there are today sociologists and journalists who study the phenomenon with empirical methodology, relying above all on oral testimony. German, Swiss, French, Spanish, Latin American, and English speaking scholars become acquainted with the sources, consult each other, and share their analyses and the difficulties of investigating a group which might be judged the principal contemporary contribution of Spanish Catholicism
Among the apologetic bibliography, we would mention Pedro Rodriguez’s book Monseñor José María Escrivá de Balaguer y el Opus Dei en el 50 Aniversario de su Fundación, Ediciones Universidad de Navarra, 1985. For more complete and less propagandistic information see the bibliography of Giancarlo Rocca’s book or that of Michael Walsh, The Secret World of Opus Dei, Harper.
B. RC 10 REPORT OF ACTIVITIES 1998/2002
(by Alain Chouraqui, President, May 2002)
1. ORGANISATIONAL MATTERS
President: Alain Chouraqui, LEST/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 35 Ave Jules Ferry, F-13626 Aix-en-Provence, France,
Tel: +33 42 37 85 00, Fax: +33 42 26 79 37, Email: email@example.com
Vice President: Ake Sandberg, Arbetlivsinstitutet, S-17184 Solna, SWEDEN,
Tel : +46. 86170370, Fax : +46. 86531750, Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President: Antonio Lucas, Dep de Sociologia VI, Fac.Ciencias de la Informacion, Universidad Complutense, E-28040 Madrid, SPAIN,
Tel : +34. 913942154, Fax : +34. 913942055, Email : email@example.com
Secretary: Ann Westenholz, Copenhagen Business School, Blagardsgade,23B, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, DENMARK,
Tel : +45. 38153815, Fax : +45.38152828, Email : Westenholz/IOA@CBS.dk
Treasurer: Wiking Ehlert, Schillerstrasse 18, D-4904 , GERMANY
Tel: +49 541 969 4606, Fax: +49 541 969 4600, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Board Members : Leslie Brown, Akihiro Ishikawa, Carlos Gadsden, Jolanta Kulpinska, Peter Leisink, Litsa Nicolaou-Smokoviti, Vera Vratusa, Edward L. Zammit
Alternates : Michal Palgi, Mamata Lakhshmanna, Dimitrina Dimitrova, Vladimir Gershikow, Heinz Suenker , Gerard Kester, Bruce Wilson, Volkmar Kreissig, Chris Warhust, Irena Juozeliuniene, Dasarath Chetty.
President: Alain Chouraqui, LEST/CNRS, 35 Ave Jules Ferry, F-13626 Aix-en-Provence, France,
Tel: +33 42 37 85 00, Fax: +33 42 26 79 37, Email: email@example.com
Vice President: Michal Palgi, Kibbutz Research Institute, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, ISRAEL
Tel: +972 6 6488710, Fax: +972 4 8240409, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President: Dasarath Chetty , School of Social Sciences , University of Durban , Westville , SOUTH AFRICA, Tel: +27 31 20 45027, Fax: +27 31 2621873 , Email: email@example.com
Secretary: Jan C. Looise, Fac. of technology & Management , University of Twente , Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, THE NETHERLANDS,
Tel: +(31)53.4893508, Fax: +(31)53.4892159, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy-Secretary (from 2000): Volkmar Kreissig , BULGARIA, Email : email@example.com
Treasurer: Wiking Ehlert, Schillerstrasse 18, D-4904 , GERMANY
Tel: +49 541 969 4606, Fax: +49 541 969 4600, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Board Members : Leslie Brown,Litsa Nicolaou-Smokoviti, Vera Vratusa, Edward L. Zammit
Alternates : Antonio Lucas, Richard Ruzicka, Azril Bacal, Johann Maree, Vladimir Gershikow, Harvie Ramsay, Heinz Suenker , Severyn Bruyn.
Next board election in 2002
Until now, the board was elected by mail ballot, during the year following a first presentation of candidates in the previous World Congress, and after a written presentation of all the candidates –and of their main goals and interests if elected- in the following Newsletter. In order to maximise membership voting, i.e. to improve the democratic process, a slight statutory change was unanimously decided in 2001 by mail ballot: elections of the new board will take place before and during the World Congress. Those members who will not be able to attend the World Congress will keep the past possibility to send their ballots by mail, on the basis of the written presentation of candidates. Those who attend the World Congress will now have the possibility to directly hear and question the candidates during the business meeting and vote immediately afterwards. The mailed and the directly voted ballots will then be counted together. This new regulation will be applied in the Brisbane World Congress.
Six Board meetings (1998/2002)
The board was very active during these years . Six board meetings were held in four years : in Montreal, Tel-Aviv, Durban, Munich, Wuppertal and soon in Brisbane. Seven to twelve board members attended these meetings, and detailed minutes were written in order to keep a right memory and to keep informed the non attending members. All this improved the collective spirit and the concrete involvement of all board members, as much as the transparency of the decision-making.
Newsletter / Web
RC10 usually publishes its Newsletter twice a year, sent to about 350 colleagues. This Newsletter is now opened to the three official languages, and the “ Letter from the Chair ” is symbolically published in three languages. Our editor is Michal Palgi, from the Kibbutz Research Institute of Haifa University. The contents of the Newsletter were seriously increased (between 34 and 42 dense pages in the various issues), with new short papers and a new section with various information of interest, especially about networks, new books and Journals in our field.
About Web communication, our board originally decided not to replace the paper version of the Newsletter by an electronic one (as most of our members did not use Internet yet), and not to put the full text of the Newsletter on the Web (as it has to remain somehow an internal way of communication which our members have paid for, and normally have to pay for).
Since things are quickly moving in this area, the new board came back to that issue. We then decided, on the one hand to explore the different technical possibilities which could indeed improve our ways of communication, in connection with ISA services (website? forums? permanent electronic and interactive info network? e-mailed newsletter to those who practice e-mail? passwords for members? which connections with ISA website? ...), on the other hand to go on cautiously in order not to create a "two speed membership" between those members who are in and those who are out of the electronic communication. One could have observed that in some countries, people are much more practising the web than in some others.
A complete project of RC 10 website was finally presented in our last board meeting in Wuppertal. It will soon appear as a link under existing ISA website, and will show basic and permanent information on RC10 together with updated ones, notably on events and call for papers. A webmaster is now in charge of finalising the site, of managing and of updating it. Further developments and filters for members are possible with the chosen standard software. Preparation and management of this site will be at low cost.
Our board decided to make a significant effort and to strengthen the pressure on our colleagues in order to improve ISA membership in good standing, and to reduce the gap between ISA membership and RC10 membership. Each board member should have "recruited" three new ISA members. Each session coordinator in Brisbane was urged to kindly but firmly ask presenters to become ISA members when registering to the Congress. And our last Newsletters insisted about that goal, on the cover page, in my “Letters from the Chair”, in publishing the lists of ISA members (as provided by ISA secretariat)… A significant progress was then made in a few months with at least 72 ISA members (instead of 42) and 288 RC10 members. We don’t know yet the new membership coming from the registration process for Brisbane Congress.
RC10 comprises two Subcommittees: an Ibero-American Subcommittee, and a Subcommittee focused on “Participation and Privatisation”. They organise meetings and publications, and participate to the general activities of the whole RC10, notably in World Congresses. A third one (Indian Subcommittee) is planned to start again after the Brisbane Congress.
A difficulty recently appeared with the new leadership of the Ibero-American Subcommittee. RC10 board was surprised to discover the birth of a “ new ” Iberoamerican association: AISO (Asociacion Iberoamericana de Sociologia de las Organizaciones). Surprise to discover that AISO was a strange “ clone-organisation ”, since AISO and SI of RC10 "have the same members, the same board, the same Statutes, the same Newsletter and, more generally, the same purpose" (quotation from the President of AISO and of our Subcommittee in their last Boletin). Surprise that RC10 board was never informed or consulted during the long preparation and implementation of this decision. Surprise to read in the same Boletin that the two sessions allocated to our IS by RC10 were presented as “ joint-sessions ” with AISO, which is not possible without at least consulting RC10 board and the general coordinator of RC10 programme, like for each session within RC10 programme -and specially for joint sessions. Surprise to hear that one of the reasons of the clone-association is to get a direct link with ISA and to obtain two more sessions in the World Congresses, in addition to the two sessions usually asked (and agreed) within RC10 Programme. Surprise to read about a so-called “ subordination ” of the IS, which is only in fact the normal consequence of the fact that the Subcommittee is definitely included within the RC, living under the common RC10 rules and Statutes about internal democracy, transparency, communication and functioning. Surprise also to observe such a situation in spite of the open proposals unanimously made by RC10 board in its Durban meeting –after a long patience-, and in spite of its further good appreciation of the improvement of the relationship (next Munich meeting). But no surprise at all when reading that, in such circumstances, the IS leadership feels necessary to insist upon “ the wish not to leave RC10 and to keep an open dialogue … ”.
The RC 10 board will unfortunately have to manage this new strange situation imposed by the IS leadership. It had made it clear that “the current and new members of our continuing IS who wished to escape any exclusive group are most welcome to go on participating in our network fostering international exchanges and improving real democracy, with an inclusive, pluralistic and open democratic spirit and practice ”. The next World Congress should be a good opportunity to really come back –in facts not in words- to normal communication between a RC and its Subcommittee, and to clear, transparent and fruitful relationship with most of the IS members.
Name of RC10
After years of internal debates (having begun during the World Congress in Bielefeld !), after many board meetings on this topic, a mail ballot was made about the possible change of name of RC10 ; the rationale was to keep the same field of participation while taking into account the theoretical and practical changes in this field . A first decision was taken in favour of “ Participation and organizational democracy ” instead of “ Participation and self-management ”. However, since the debate was still going on between our members, I suggested the board to organise a ballot about a more consensual name which could take into account the various cultural and scientific opinions. This initiative was successful, since all the voters –except one- finally approved the new proposed name: “ Participation, organizational democracy and self-management ”.
2. SCIENTIFIC MATTERS:
TWELVE Scientific events organised by RC10 (1998/2002) –
SIX PLANNED ONES.
The year 1998 was, as usual, focused on the World Congress. In 1999, three RC10 Conferences and seminars were held in Lima, Tel-Aviv and St Petersburg. In 2000, two Conferences were held: Barbastro (Huesca, Spain) and our first RC10 Conference in Africa (Durban). In 2001, RC10 events happened in Munich, Wuppertal, Pretoria and San Juan (Argentina). And in 2002 in Porto Alegre (Brazil) and in Brisbane (World Congress). Six other ones are planned for 2003-2004 in Prague, Tunis, Mexico, Berlin, Valencia and Porto Alegre.
- Most of these events meet the major challenges in our present scientific policy:
to explore a few conceptual keywords : Participation and …globalization, …workplace and industrial relations, …organization, …democracy, …property, …culture, …participatory research;
and to develop better links, on the one hand between academics from dominant areas and others, and on the other hand between academics and social actors.
Therefore one should not be surprised that I specially stress the importance of our first RC10 Conference in Africa (Durban), in a country in which democratic participation was recently a difficult challenge, and also in order to build bridges and further cooperation with African colleagues. Other events are planned in the same way (Africa, South America and Eastern Europe). And the renewal of an Indian Subcommittee will help in building new events in Asia.
- In order not to discourage the many initiatives coming from members or partners, our board took the risk to give its agreement to a greater number of RC10 events than ever. A very encouraging indication was given in 1999. Despite three RC10 conferences (Tel Aviv, Lima and St Petersburg) were held within only one month (which could finally not be avoided), all these events were very successful, as much at scientific level, as at organisational level: controversial topics and debates, 25 to 30 papers in each one, coming from a great number of countries. That also meant that our Committee and our field of research are able to attract a large range of colleagues in many continents in the same time.
- In order to improve and enlarge the relationship with other networks, RC10 made also efforts to organise its events in conjunction with other scientific bodies. For instance with the International Institute of Sociology in Tel-Aviv, July 11-15, 1999, with the South-African Sociological Association, in Durban (Oct 1-5, 2000) and Pretoria (July 1-5, 2001), with four other networks on Organizational Democracy (Munich, Feb 16-17, 2001), with the International Political Science Association ( June 20-24, 2001, Wuppertal ), with the Forum International Developpement Democratie, with the Associaחדo Latino-Americana de Sociologia and with the Sociedade Brasileira de Sociologia (SBS) in Porto Alegre (end Jan 2002)… And the next World Congress will be an opportunity to build joint sessions with six external bodies (including the International Industrial Relations Association, in addition to the Special integrative session with five other RC ’s inside ISA.
That policy is a way for us to open debates on our topic in a largest academic community, and to prepare further co-operation in seminars and research projects.
- On the basis of the Seminars and Conferences quoted above, books were already published (St Petersburg, Durban and Barbastro), are actively prepared (Wuppertal, San Juan) or are planned (Munich, Porto Alegre and Brisbane). The last book was edited on the basis of our Durban Conference: Participation, globalisation and culture; International and South-African perspectives (G; Szיll, D. Chetty, A. Chouraqui eds ; Peter Lang publ., Frankfurt, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New-York, Oxford, Wien, 2001).
RC10 board decided to create a Scientific Editorial Board in order to select the manuscripts which could be supported and appear in the Conference Series which we created for RC10 events. Editors are incited to cautiously select the best papers in each Seminar, and to complement them with external but relevant inputs.
The eighteen events are presented below. Detailed reports are to be found in Appendices.
1/ 1998: short report about the RC10 sessions in Montreal World Congress
(as published in our Newsletter n.36, Dec 1998 ; detailed reports of sessions were published in the same issue; general co-ordinator : Alain Chouraqui)
The long participatory process of preparing the Congress program began in the Conference and board meeting in Copenhagen (June 1996), when the general orientations were proposed on the basis of the theoretical analysis presented in the Conference itself; then a first "call for reactions and suggestions" was published in our Newsletter ; and two other board meetings finalised our program. When comparing this participatory process to others that can be found in many research groups or networks, we should be satisfied in applying to ourselves the democratic principles that we are usually studying in our field.
In our 17 sessions, the audience was quite sufficient, sometimes very numerous.
The ways of organising the sessions were more diverse than before, with sometimes a great role for discussants or co-ordinators, and with short oral presentations. The efforts we decided to make towards French and Spanish were generally well understood ; therefore we could have more sessions in these languages, and succeed in experiencing bilingual sessions (English-French mainly). Unfortunately we could not succeed in obtaining the final papers early enough, before the sessions; the rate of absent speakers, although low, was not improved, and remains unacceptable; and the Round table (which was planned for young inexperienced colleagues, and for papers which don't fit with the topics of other sessions) did not really succeed.
Among the six key-concepts which were the framework of our program, three (democracy, organisation, workplace) were, not surprisingly, fed with good papers. About two others (globalisation-property), which are more recent in our RC, the results were encouraging. Our surprise came from "participatory research": the audience there was very numerous (as much as for "efficiency versus democracy?"), and the papers were very exciting. I had often the opportunity to say how much I think that, on this methodological level, we have to move forward, and to bring results not only for our field, but also for most fields of Sociology.
As a very rough conclusion from many papers, I would say that participation seems to be used nowadays as a tool for efficiency as much as (perhaps more than) a tool for democracy; but this double face, although often felt as a threat, may be also an opportunity because economic interests may then converge with democratic values in assessing participation as a regulatory principle; social actors (and researchers) have then to find the preconditions for the democratic face of this Janus to be reinforced and not weakened with this evolution.
2/ 1999 - 2002 : ten RC10 Conferences or Seminars
The four last years were good ones for RC10 activities, with an average of three successful events a year on topics and in places relevant for improving RC10 scientific policy and its major key-words. In addition to the World Congresses, ten RC10 events happened, the reports about them you will find in Appendices:
- The XIIth International Seminar of the RC10 Ibero-American Subcommittee on “Participacion ciudadana y economia social en IberoAmerica: un balance hacia el tercer milenio”, in Lima, June 23-24, 1999 (William Moreno)
- An RC10 Conference on “Challenges confronting participation and organizational democracy” (in conjunction with the 34 World Congress of the International Institute of Sociology), in Tel-Aviv, July 11-15, 1999 (Michal Palgi);
- An RC10 Workshop on “New forms of management, privatisation and participation”, in St-Petersburg, July 19-20,1999 (Volkmar Kreissig).
- The XIIIth International Seminar of our RC10 Ibero-American Subcommittee on “La Participacion en las organizaciones: un desafio para el nuevo milenio”, in Barbastro (Huesca, Spain), June 28-30, 2000 (M× Victoria Sanagustםn Fons);
- The first RC10 Conference in Africa : “Participation, culture and globalisation”, in Durban (South Africa), October 1-5, 2000 (Dasarath Chetty).
- A conference in Munich (16 and 17 February 2001) entitled "Participation between
Markets and Organizational Democracy" which was offered to scientists organized in four
networks on Organizational Democracy and in the network for a Good Society (Manfred Moldaschl
- A joint workshop with the RC on Political socialization and education (IPSA,
International Political Science Association), titled "Political Socialisation, Participation
and Education in new millennium" organized by Heinz Suenker in Wuppertal Germany, 21-24 June 2001.
- A workshop ‘Democracia y participacion en la s organizaciones en las nuevas
sociedades de la informacion” of the RC10 Ibero-American subcommittee, 27-30 June
2001, in San Juan, Argentina (Maria Cristina Ayza Celia)
- An RC10 Seminar in conjunction with the Annual meeting of the South African Sociological Association in Pretoria, early July, 2001 (Dasarath Chetty).
- Three RC10 seminars on “Participation and globalization ” in the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (from January 31st to February 5th, 2002), with the support of a number of academic networks, including the Forum International Developpement Democratie, the Associaחדo Latino-Americana de Sociologia and the Sociedade Brasileira de Sociologia (Alain Chouraqui).
3/ Brisbane World Congress
At the end of the preparatory process, two months before the Congress, the following remarks can be made about our RC10 Program (Chouraqui coordinator):
a/ The RC10 provisional program has been built on the basis of keywords selected in two board meetings, of the list of suggested items published in our Newsletter, of direct proposals made by our members, and of RC10 initiatives to co-operate with other bodies. Another board meeting finalised our program.
b / The selected keywords for this program were the following (always in relation with our general theme of participation):
-Globalization -Workplace and industrial relations -Organization -Democracy -Property -Culture -Participatory research. When comparing with the last Congress, a new keyword appeared (Culture), but the changes were more significant in topics feeding these keywords..
c/ With respect to these ones, a balance had to be made between narrow and large topics in the sessions. A couple of sessions titles are rather large, for two reasons: first, sessions held in co-operation with other bodies sometimes require flexibility in order to stimulate first exchanges on the basis of concepts from different scientific origins; second,our Spanish and French speaking colleagues have not to be taken away from us by too narrow topics in their own languages (it is easier to have more and accurate topics in the more numerous sessions in English).The counterpart will be for co-ordinators to be more mindful of the quality of the proposed papers.
d/ Like in Montreal, according to our policy about languages, a serious opening to Spanish and French had to be maintained. We have kept a few bilingual sessions, as it generally worked well in Montreal. It will then be possible to speak English in 12 sessions, Spanish in 6 and French in 4. That helped also in keeping a balance between regions: the co-ordinators are coming from 21 countries in the five continents.
e/ For the first time, sessions have been organised with six external bodies, in addition to the Special integrative session organised by our RC and joined by five other RC’s .That is a way for us to open debates on our topic in a larger academic community.
f/ 20 out of the 33 co-ordinators are „ new “ones in this role,and roughly half of the co-ordinators are involved for the first time in RC 10 activities. Moreover our Programme presents 103 accepted papers by 132 authors, from 33 countries of the five continents, on all the various topics which were originally selected by our board. Most of these contibutors are also newly involved in RC10 activities. That sounds fine for the future of RC10.
g/ Finally, most of our criteria were respected,about the content as much as about the various balances to be respected.
4/ Six planned events
· A Seminar during the World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association (Berlin, 2003), in conjunction with its Workers’ Participation Study Group (Ray Markey)
· A workshop on “Teachers training & Organisational Democracy” in Prag/Czech Republic (2003, Richard Ruzicka)
· Possible Seminars in the third World Social Forum (to be decided by the board)
· Two Ibero-American Seminars, in Mexico (2003, Carlos Gadsden) and in Valencia (2004, Antonio Colomer)
· A Conference on “Democratic participation and participatory research”, in Tunis (Habib Guiza)
5/ Provisional conclusions: participation, globalization and privatization
These RC10 past and future events were and will be good opportunities for RC10 to help in getting a vision of direct and representative participation as a necessary way not only to develop democracy, but also as a necessary modern way to improve economic efficiency. Fortunately, although they are deeply involved in economic and financial processes, many managers and policy makers are aware of that point: in addition to democratic requirements, modern complexity, global competition, new technologies and quick changes cannot go together with authoritarian and centralized systems. Therefore social systems (in firms, cities, regions, society at large) can no longer be efficient without local autonomy and human involvement. This systemic requirement for efficiency (not always for democracy) is the main reason why the employers are nowadays developing so many forms of employee participation. Most interviewed European managers (E.U.) think that employee participation is a good tool for improving efficiency and productivity in the firm. But in the same time, one can observe that managerial forms of direct participation often fail when too much focused on productive goals, and not at all on working conditions nor on decision-making processes. We then have to remind decision-makers that "productive participation" should be developed in parallel with "democratic participation" since both forms are most often interlinked in the long run (like democracy and economic development). For instance, most European managers (E.U.) having practised direct participation, experienced that the more employees' representatives are involved in the process of implementation of employees' direct participation, the more efficient it is at economic and productive levels (re: results of the major research programme EPOC on participation in Europe).
In addition to the traditional workers’ or citizens’ requests, the managerial awareness about the systemic need of participation for efficiency seems to be the newest and perhaps, paradoxically, the strongest support that, in the long term, democratic participation can expect.
This analysis applies today to both processes of globalisation and of privatisation (not only in Eastern and Central Europe), which are nowadays most often dominated by economic and financial values and criteria. Globalisation and privatisation require direct and various involvement from citizens and workers, and this requirement is necessary for human rights, as much as for the efficiency of the societal or firm systems, from establishment level to global one.
Anyway, this actually dominant managerial approach of participation should not hide the fact that a real democratic participation can indeed lead to consensus, but also to conflicts. In firms like in society at large, participation in conflicts is a necessary democratic path when participation in consensus processes (just like the lack of participation) would only mean contribution to inequity or to non-democratic processes. Thus globalisation requires to-day participation in conflicts when major values and interests are at stake. Strikes, protests and demonstrations against a number of human, social and environmental consequences of globalisation are on-going in many developed and developing countries. This is one of the usual ways, as much as consensus, to try to implement more democratic regulations, and to civilize "wild globalisation", just like the "wild capitalism" in the nineteenth century was humanised by conflicts and by a new balance of powers, then by more democratic regulations. A similar participative and conflictual process is ongoing today at global level. New ways are appearing for direct participation to confront deregulated globalisation, then new fields for our research. However, academics should not forget that when they intend to improve democracy, a high standard of scientific quality is needed in order to be relevant in such controversial challenges.
SEE APPENDICES BELOW
CHALLENGES CONFRONTING PARTICIPATION AND ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOCRACY IN AN ERA OF GLOBALIZATION
Convener: Michal Palgi, Emek Yezreel College, Israel
In conjunction with the 34 World Congress of the International Institute of
Sociology, July 11-15, 1999, Tel Aviv, Israel
The conference had seven different sessions and one symposium. 29 different papers were presented and interesting discussions took place.
The topic of the symposium was: “Industrial Relations and Participation in the Process of Globalization” Chaired by Michal Palgi, Israel. Issues discussed in the symposium were:
“Globalization of markets - what happens to labour relations - employee influence and gender equality ? Some international and Scandinavian experiences”, Bjorg Aase Sorensen, Norway.
"Participation as a tool for a democratic process of globalization", Alain Chouraqui, France.
"Changes in Kibbutz organizational democracy in an era of globalization", Menachem Rosner, Israel. “Conditions for democratization and implosive and explosive trends in work structuring and contracting.” Klaus Bartoelke, Germany
The first session dealt with issues of “Participation in a Global Context”.
Richard P. Appelbaum, U.S.A. topic was: "Can Workers Organize? Globalization, Flexible Production, and the Decline of Organized Labor"; Aviad Bar-Haim, Israel spoke about “Participation Programs in their Contexts”; Kaarel Haav, Estonia analyzed “Problems of Participation and Organizational Democracy in the Public Sector: The Case of Estonia.” and Yair Levi, Israel focussed his talk on “Rural Cooperatives and Mainstream Economics: Adaptation or Resistance”.
The second session was about “Participation, Privatization and Inequality”.
In this session the papers offered were "Privatization and processes of inequality in the Kibbutz" Michal Palgi, Israel; "Employee Participation in State-Owned, Privatized, and New Private Enterprises in Russia", Raymond Russell, U.S.A. Discussion on theses issues was lead by Amnon Caspi, Israel.
The third session concentrated on “Gender and Participation in an Era of Globalization”. This session was organized in a more informal manner which enabled the audience to hear of experiences in additional countries. The speakers were Martina Gille, Germany on: Social and Political Participation of Young People in Germany – Gender and Gender Role Attitudes as One Important Determinant of Participation. Maria Gomez y Patino, Spain on: “Woman participation in globalization times” and Bjorg Aase Sorensen, Norway on: “Women’s methods of empowerment in Norway”.
The fourth session was about “Forms of Organizational Democracy”. Speakers were: Wolfgang G. Weber, Switzerland, "Beyond the Selfishness Paradigm: Collective Autonomy and Work-related Prosocial Orientations"; Dassarath Chetty, South Africa on “Combatting Aids - A Participatory Perspective"; and Victor J. Friedman, Israel on "Conflict Between 'Alternativists' and 'Pragmatists' in Democratic Organizations".
The fifth session, “Participation and Power in an Era of Globalization” consisted of the following speakers: Alain Chouraqui, France, “Regulation of direct participation and the “European model” of regulated autonomy”; Edward Zammit, Malta, “Trade union education and democratic participation – a case study of Malta’s experience”; David Argeman, Israel, “The experiment of direct democracy”; and Helena Syna Desivilya, Israel spoke on ”Alternative Dispute Resolution at the workplace as an empowering mechanism in the era of privatization”.
In the sixth session “Culture and Participation” took part: Menachem Topel, Israel, "Technocratic Trend and Social Change in Egalitarian Democracy"; Ingrid Voigt, Germany “Influence of corporate culture on organizational behavior”; Vladimir P. Kultygin, Russia, "Development of Globalistic and Communal Traditions in Russian Society"; Reuven Shapira, Israel, “Kibbutz System Decline: Officers' Continuity and Submission of Democratic to Hierarchical Cultures”; and De Malach Daniel, Israel, “Ideology Costs: Managerial Practices at the Kibbutz Movement, 1940-1980”.
Session seven addressed issues on “Participatory Research”. The speakers in this session were: Victor J. Friedman, Israel, spoke on "Action Science: Participatory research for bridging the gap between social science theory and practice"; Dani Rosolio, Israel, on “Stages in the decision process structure in the kibbutz: Participatory research” and Ruby Newman, U.S.A on “Going home: Survival narratives of Ethiopian Jewish mothers and daughters”
All I all, the sessions were well attended, usually (but not always) there was enough time for discussions and for exchange of new ideas and ways for cooperation.
Report on the Workshop entitled:
"New forms of Management, privatisation and participation"
at the St. Petersburg State University/Faculty for Management from 19th - 20th July 1999 supported by German Volkswagen Foundation – by Volkmar Kreissig
The workshop was a meeting of RC 10 of ISA organised by the regulations of RC 10. Present were members of board and members of RC 10. Also have taken part members of RC 30 and RC 44 of ISA. Participants came from 11 countries and 3 continents (Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Japan, Russia, USA).
During the conference it has a very interesting reports and also a controversy, fruitfully stimulated discussion. Participants were researcher, academic professors and also practically working economists and politicians. A lot of reports made students form Germany and Russia and showed their ability to make researches and scientific analyses. The reports were based on empirical studies and theoretically orientated also.
The reports touched Problems of Germany and Russia on one hand and of Brazil, China, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Poland and Europe on other hand in general.
The reports and discussions at the workshop contributed to the actually discussion on Privatisation and the development of Management and Economy in Central and Eastern Europe. The question was relevant what can be the contribution of participation and industrial relations development to participatory workforce organisation and democratisation in production, work life and communities in general.
The workshop was structured in the following groups of lectures:
· "Basis of new forms of management, participation and privatisation" (Kreissig/Raskow)
· "Development of positions of the management to participation in small and medium sized enterprises in East Germany" (Lang)
2. New Forms of Management
· "Successfully management in German small and medium sized enterprises (Gruhler)
· "Empirical studies on development of management in Eastern Europe" (Ishikawa)
· "Importance of participative management in small and medium sized enterprises in Europe (Insola)
· "Management in small and medium sized enterprises in Northern Italy (Silvestri)
· "Management and Self-organisation in enterprises" (Trofimov)
· "Management in Russian enterprises and business evaluation" (Loukianova/Zenkevich)
· "Entrepreneurship and management in Russia - psychological aspects" (Koshelova)
· "Forms of Management and Privatisation in Russian Household Economy" (Fox)
3. Students researches to Management, Participation and Privatisation
· "Russian system of taxes as a problem of modern forms of management" (Adrianov)
· "Co-operative structures in inter-organisational networks" (Schlorke/Schubert/Uhlmann)
· "Japanese management methods and problems of realisation in Russia" (Kusnezova)
· Human resources consulting - as important task of management in Russia" (Denisova)
4. Privatisation and Participation
· "Privatisation and participation in Siberia" (Gershikov)
· "Structure of Hungarian economy after privatisation - limits of participation" (Galgoczi)
5. Participation - forms and industrial relations
· "Industrial relations in Greece - present situation, trends and future" (Nicolaou-Smokoviti)
· "Teamwork - a contribution to co-determination at workplace - example of VW" (Seul)
· "Participation in propriety and management or co-determination in Poland" (Kulpinska)
· "Women participation in the management of the future" (Guadelupe Gomez y Patio)
6. Economic change and participation
· "Democracy, participation and education" (Suenker)
· "Communal enterprises - participation in Russian entrepreneurship" (Patokina/ Cherniakov)
· "Industrial change and fetching modernisation the example of Volkswagen AG" (Voigt)
7. Practical experiences in Management, Privatisation and Participation
· "Foundation of a private enterprise and problems of participative management in East Germany" (Arnold)
· "Privatisation of Hoermann-Rawema and problems of participative project management in Eastern Europe" (Streicher)
· Development of business ethic and participative management on the market" (Igantiev)
8. Roundtable discussion: "Potentialities and forms of management and participation in the co-operation between Russia and Germany" (Arnold/Effenberger/Streicher/Gaube/ Moltschanov/Chonobiev - Katkalo).
After reports and discussion focused on search of ways of participation in different management fields, participants looked for some realities in Russian society, culture and history.
A tentative report on the XIIth international Seminar of the
RC10 Iberoamerican Subcommittee
"CITIZENS' PARTICIPATION AND SOCIAL ECONOMY IN IBEROAMERICA:
A BALANCE TOWARDS THE THIRD MILLENIUM."
by Azril Bacal
It had symbolic value to convene this seminar in Peru, ten years after its foundation in Lima, in 1989. Since then, as an active constituent group within RC 10, it successfully organized several high-leveled international meetings in various countries (Mexico, Spain, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Portugal, Chile, Palmas/Spain and Montreal. This time the theme addressed was: "Citizens' Participation and Social Economy in Iberoamerica: A Balance towards the Third Millenium."
It took place at the Technical University of Callao, nearby Lima, between the 23rd and 26th June 1999.
I had been commissioned at the Montreal ISA Conference to support the local organizing committee in terms of both upgrading the academic quality of the program and enhancing the diversity and democratic plurality of views presented at this occasion. Also to keep functionally alive the linkages between the Iberoamerican Subcommittee and the encompassing membership and the board of RC 10.
In my view, this seminar continued in the good tradition set forward since 1989, namely, by providing a lively regional (and international) realm of intellectual debate and academic networking on the same themes that concern RC 10. William Moreno's organizational skills were tested once again and he delivered a surprisingly good-quality seminar, by most standards: good program, high quality, relevant and contemporary papers, plurality of views, international presence albeit reduced, a fairly good number of national participants, which included persons from the academic world, from NGOs and from local governments.
Klaus Lynge (Denmark), Richard Ruzicka (Chequien), myself (Peru/Sweden), and colleagues from Spain, Chile and Argentina, constituted the international dimension and the organic link with RC 10. Official letters from Alain Chouraqui, President of RC 10 and from Antonio Lucas, who could not be present, were officially read at the beginning of the seminar. I also presented the paper of Erik Lindhult, a Swedish colleague, on "The Challenges of the Regionally Embedded University," as he had asked me to do. This was Erik's second contribution to the Iberoamerican Subcommittee. The first one being in Mexico, a few years ago.
It should be mentioned, that it was a difficult feat to accomplish such an event in Peru, at that point in time, given the prevailing economic and political national circumstances there. Not to mention the hegemony of neoliberal polices and practices, reflected in the high levels of poverty, unemployment and its critical correlates of criminality, corruption and autocratic practices, among other difficult circumstances.
The complementary cultural, artistic, culinary and social events and tours provided by the local organizing committee were also noteworthy.
In spite of the limited support from the most important national universities in Peru, the XIIth International Seminar of the Iberoamerican Subcommittee deserves qualified praise.
Moreover, of relevance to all RC 10 members, a motion was passed unanimously by all participants at this seminar, to formally request the Board of RC 10 to regain the former denomination of "Participation and Self-Management." It was cogently argued that the term "organizational democracy" does not capture the historical and theoretical density of "self-management" as a heuristic and explanatory concept.
Certain formal organizational topics remain to be addressed at the next meeting of the Iberoamerican Subcommittee in Malaga, Spain, the year 2000, such as, for instance, the election of its new board.
My own presentation dealt with "Citizen Participation, Democratization and the Culture of Peace: Towards the New Millenium." I intend to write a brief article for our newsletter in the near future.
I wish also to inform RC 10 members, that I have established this year, for the second year in a row, in Sao Paulo, organizational contacts with the National Association of Self-Management in Brazil. They have expressed interest in joining both RC 10 and its Iberoamerican Subcommittee.
I hope these few lines suffice to provide an overview of what happened at the XIIth International Seminar of the Iberoamerican Subcommittee.
An International Conference of RC 10 on
PARTICIPATION, GLOBALISATION & CULTURE
held in Durban, South Africa (1–5 October 2000).
RC10 organised in Durban its first conference in Africa, a major concern being democratic participation and cultural diversity in the face of globalisation. The University of Durban-Westville is itself one of the rare really multicultural universities in South Africa so far. Its slogan ”For a changing Africa” speaks for itself. (More information on their homepage: http://www.udw.ac.za/). Prof. Dasarath Chetty was the Conference organizer.
The conference united social scientists and practitioners from Africa, mainly South Africa itself, with international experts from all over the world. This was a unique occasion at the same time to discover one of the most dynamic societies in the world, which suffered for decades under Apartheid and yet gave the world an example of peaceful reconciliation. It was also an opportunity for European and other scientists to study African forms of participation.
Africa has been in the last couple of years mainly in the headlines for civil-war, neo-colonialism, corruption, dictatorships. On the other hand South Africa delivered an example of a rather peaceful transition from the Apartheid regime to democracy. The Truth Commission is a unique example how to overcome decades of intolerance and State oppression. Still ethnic cleavages are still to be found, and a large part of the population are still living in townships. The main problems are unemployment and AIDS.
How to overcome this situation and what might be the role of participation and organisational democracy? The process of democratisation is fast growing through a number of empowerment activities. NGOs play a specific role in this process.
Africa has a long tradition of participation in its own social structures, particularly in the villages. Perhaps the most well-known development strategy based on these traditions has been ”Ujamaa” by the late Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere. In South Africa many speak of an ”African Renaissance”. To this concept, this vision Pitika Ntuli, professor of Fine Art at University of Durban-Westville (UDW), has largely contributed. He was one of the main contributors to the conference.
Herewith the debate on culture and cultural identity is closely linked. RC 10 has a little bit neglected this dimension in its debates and conferences so far. With ongoing globalisation, participation and organisational democracy are under heavy pressure. The struggle around the Multilateral Convention for Investment within the World Trade Organisation is significant in this respect. Cultural products should be regarded just like any other item.
The Mayor of Durban, Councillor Obed Mlaba, hosted a reception for the 45 delegates on the first day. Participants from 13 countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa then attended the academic sessions at the University of Durban-Westville. Twenty-six papers and one panel discussion constituted the academic sessions.
Despite the very general theme of the conference, which was structured such that participation would
be optimised, the issues began to gel in a coherent way. Questions relating to the nature of shareholder dictatorship as opposed to stakeholder democracy (Participation and organisational democracy as its very bases), the scope for regulated autonomy, the role of science, the role of intellectuals in the working class movement, the marginalisation of immigrants, the relationship between the African Renaissance and Global Culture, and the question of the construction of identity through the media-market-culture interface were all vigorously debated. The proceedings of the conference are edited by Gyoergy Szell, Dasarath Chetty and Alain Chouraqui and will be published by Peter Lang Publishers, Frankfurt/Bern/Brussels/New York/Vienna, early in 2001.
The conference was significant not only because of the book, but also because it was the first time that RC 10 met on the African continent. It also provided the Board an opportunity to discuss critical issues and for participants to experience the unique social mix that is Durban. Visits to the Docks, discussions with unionists, the Game Park, the Hindu Temple and Dinner on the Waterfront all served to add to the splendour of the event.
Participation between Markets and Organizational Democracy
Munich, February 16./17., 2001
Friday, February 16
9:15-12:00 Plenary Session: A sober look back
Frank Heller, Tavistock-Institute London: „Why has Organizational Democracy Failed?“
Davydd J. Greenwood, Institute for European Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York:
"Action Research as Science: Great Expectations but Modest Accomplishments."
Michal Palgi, Kibbutz Research Institute, University of Haifa: „The Kibbutznik's Dilemmas.“
Manfred Moldaschl, TU-Munich: „How the Semantics of Participation metamorphosed. From Emancipatory Policies to Marketing?“
Gyoergy Szיll, Department of Social Sciences, Univ. of Osnabrueck: „Participation or Organisational Democracy?“
12:00-13:00 Plenary Session: What’s new? Trends and Questions
Alain Chouraqui, Laboratoire d'Economie et de Sociologie du Travail (LEST/CNRS: "Towards a Global Model of Regulated Autonomy?"
Denise M. Rousseau, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh: „Idiosyncratic Psychological Contracts: Is Flexibility Incompatible with Justice?“
14:00-16:30 Paralell Sessions: What’s new?
Group A: Regulatory Contexts - Findings and Interpretations
Yitzhak Fried: „The regulatory environment in the U.S. and organizational practices and concepts: A neglected issue in the organizational behavior literature“.
Ludger Pries, Gelsenkirchen: „Collective workers participation and globalization: mutually exclusive or consistent? The Case of the German Automobile Industry.”
Christopher Warhurst, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow: „Towards a Progressive Economic Policy? The Case of Post-Devolution Scotland.“
Harald Wolf, Gצttingen: „The New Spirit of Capitalism and the Spectre of Autonomy.“
Group B: Participation or Democracy? Cases and Interpretations
Ursula Holtgrewe, University of Duisburg: „Recognition, Intersubjectivity and Service Work: Struggles in the Internet-Economy.”
Uriel Leviatan, Kibbutz Research Institute, University of Haifa: „Effects of moving from ‚Communal‘ to ‚Market‘ or ‚Hierarchical‘ principles of conduct in Kibbutzim and the importance of ‚Internal Congruence.‘“
Dani Rosolio, Haifa University and Western Galilee Academic College: „Role Conflict of Workers Representative in Board of Directors in Crises Situations: A Case Analysis“.
Bjorg Aase Sorensen, Work Research Institute, Oslo: „Privatization in the public sector - a threefold challenge to the unionized workforce“.
Uwe Vormbusch, University of Frankfurt: „Good Work in Bad Times? Participative Management between Democratic Practice and Shareholder Pressure.“
17:00-18:30 Plenary Session: Report of the Groupwork, General Debate Discussion, how to proceed at Saturday (e.g. plenary or parallel)
Historic Film (in German): Das Peiner Humanisierungsprojekt (1980), commented by Werner Fricke
Saturday, February 17
What to do? (1) Research and Conceptual Perspectives
Karl Birkhצlzer, TU Berlin, and European Network for Economic Self-Help and Local Development: “Social Enterprises and the Third Sector“
Armando Fernandez-Steinko, Universidad Complutense, Madrid: „Time and Space for a Realistic Strategy of Democratization“
Werner Fricke, Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, Bonn: „Democratic Social Science as a Condition for Industrial Democracy“
Sibylle Heilbrunn, Ruppin Institute for Higher Education, Emek Hefer, Israel: „The Kibbutz and the Incubator Model“
Peter Jansen, Berlin: „Vocational Training - a Means for the Development of Cooperative and Prosocial Values?“
Paul Singer, University of Sao Paulo: „Self-Management and Market Socialism - Fighting Unemployment in the Context of Neo-Liberal Globalization“
Wolfgang G. Weber, University of Innsbruck: „Threats and Perspectives for Research on Organizational-Democracy“
Thomas D. Zweifel, Swiss Consulting Group, New York: „‘Strategy-in-Action‘. A Change Methodology.“
14:00-15:30 Plenary Session: What to do? (2) Networks and Iniciatives
„Towards more social responsibility in modern economy. The Swiss Network of Social Responsibility in the Economy“ Mario von Cranach, University of Bern.
„Committe of Alternative Economy in the Socio-Political Network (AG SPAK)“
Gisela Notz, Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, Bonn.
„The French Initiative ‚Raisons d’Agir‘: Perspectives for Social Scientists?“
Andreas Pfeuffer, Center for European Social Research, Konstanz (ZEG).
„Self-Management and the Search for a Good Society. Lessons from the Kibbutz Experience.“
Menachem Rosner, em. University of Haifa.
„Network for Humanization of Work and Organizational Democracy“.
Manfred Moldaschl, TU Munich, Wolfgang Weber, Univ. of Innsbruck
„Network Regional and Local Development of Work and Labour"
Gyoergy Szell, Department of Social Sciences, Univ of Osnabrueck
Research Committee 10 of the International Sociological Association (ISA)“
Alain Chouraqui and the RC10-board members
16:00-17:30 Excursion to/ discussion with members of collectivist enterprises
Short report on the International Symposium:
“POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION, PARTICIPATION, AND EDUCATION:
CHANGE OF THE EPOCH – PROCESSES OF DEMOCRATIZATION ”,
held at the University of Wuppertal,
Germany,20-24 June 2001
Heinz Sunker organised this conference together with members and students of his Faculty in co-operation with the Research Committee “Political Socialisati on and Political Education ” of the International Political Science Association and the Research Committee „Participation, Organizational Democracy & Self-management “ of the International Sociological Association..
The symposium assembled some 60 people from all parts of the world, with a big impact from US-American colleagues. More than 30 papers were presented during the three days. They were centered around the following topics:
I. Perspectives of Politics and Political Education;
II. Idea and Reality of Democracy and Participation;
III. Political Socialization Research;
IV. The Welfare State and the Question of Politics.
We had very lively discussions around the question what political socialization means today after a “catastrophic short century ”(Hobsbawm), after the end of really existing socialism, in a world with fundamental conflicts (Near East and elsewhere. What can under these circumstances be the role of participation and education? Is there a chance for a Second Enlightenment (Neil Postman)? It is planned to publish the proceedings of the symposium within the next couple of months.
The meeting gave also the occasion of an RC 10 board meeting to prepare our sessions during the next World Congress of Sociology, and discuss other relevant issues.
As Wuppertal is the birthplace of Friedrich Engels we went back to the roots of capitalism and socialism at the same time.A wonderful dinner was offered by the Lord Mayor in the Engelskeller in the Historical Centre.We felt glocalisation – globalisation and localisation – right there.The evening ended with a very enlightening guided tour of the Engels-museum –a
former residence of his family – by a lady from a country of the really existing socialism. A most fascinating link between early and late socialisms. The greatest tourist attraction of the city of Wuppertal – its unique Schwebebahn (suspension train)– is perhaps also a symbol of the symposium: free floating intellectuals in a circus arena.
The XIVth International Sociology Seminar on:
DEMOCRACY AND PARTICIPATION IN THE NEW INFORMATIONAL SOCIETIES
San Juan,Argentina, 27-29 June 2001.
In spite of all existing economic and political odds and problems nowadays plaguing Argentina, as one reads daily in the news, and similarly to the case of the Lima Seminar in 1999,this seminar could be appraised as a successful international academic event, in the face of adversity.
Due credit must be given to Lic. Maria Cristina Ayza Celia, coordinator of the local organizing team, for its organizational success on all the grounds commonly associated with these kind of high quality international and regional academic events.
Lic. Cristina Ayza and her efficient team bear no blame whatsoever for the observed problems found in the business meeting and electoral process (of the Subcommittee), a topic that should seriously be addressed in the next meeting of the board of RC 10/ISA.
Taking the different aspects of the XIVth Seminario Internacional de Sociologia into account, one at a time, one could recognize the relevancy of the general theme of this event. The new informational societies pose an increasing challenge for the future, precisely in terms of democratic or monopolistic property and control of the flow of information and recreation.
One could also stop short and just praise its technological development. There is ample space for debate and interpretation on this critical issue of our times.
A rough estimate of the number of participants both teachers and students could be around 150 to 200 at its peak. One could distinguish among participants, that a clear majority of researchers and students attending the seminar came from Argentina and from the local universities at San Juan, a fact explained by the current economic crisis in the region. Another sizeable group of colleagues came from Buenos Aires and nearby regions. There were at least three colleagues from Chile, several from Spain and three scholars from Portugal, one from Brazil, Canada and Sweden.
The program was well structured, printed (including abstracts of the about 50 papers resented) and implemented in convenient facilities. Francisco Delich, a former rector of an important national university in Argentina who is also a former ILO functionary, delivered the inaugural speech. He is also the father of the current minister of education of that country. His lecture dealt with "The Democratic Demand in Asynchronic Societies," a well articulated presentation, which I regard with all due respect, as an updated version of the functionalist paradigm on modernization and democracy. Unfortunately, due to its lengthy presentation, little time was left out for discussion with the audience.
There were two panels:
Panel I dealt with the topic of Informational Societies, with the participation of Profs. James R. Taylor from Montreal, Canada, on "Living in an Innovative Society," Antonio Lucas from Madrid on "Participation and Work in Information Societies" and Juan Russo from Universidad de San Juan on "Democracy and New Politics in Informational Societies."
Panel II dealt with the theme of "Participation in Organizations" with the presentations of Dr. Manuel da Silva e Costa, University of Minho, Portugal, on "The Re-Enchantment with Organization: The Participative Organization and the Change of the Scientific Paradigm," and Dr. Isabel De la Torre Prados, Universidad Autonoma Madrid, on "The Politics of Communication and Participation: The Good Practices of Permanent Training."
There were five working commissions, addressing the following topics:
I. Development and Equity in the New Informational Society.
II. Training, participation and culture in Organizations.
III. Self-management, experiences of participation and social movements.
IV. The New Informational Society: Participation and New Technologies
V. Participation and Organizational Democracy (papers in English)
Both the plenaries (panels) and discussion groups (working commissions) were well attended by the participants. Additionally the program included some interesting cultural and musical events and significant local visits, which enriched the overall quality of this event.
The organizing committee will collect, edit and publish the proceedings of the San Juan Seminar in a book form in the nearby future.
In short, the XIVth International Seminar of the IS/RC 10 at San Juan could be appraised as highly successful both academically and organizationally, enabling a rich and varied academic menu for discussion, with a plurality of theoretical orientations and a sizeable number of research findings and case studies. One could appraise more participation and debate in the various commissions (smaller groups) than in the larger plenaries, which is commonly the case in other similar international academic meetings.
Uppsala,Sweden,2 August 2002
Report from the joint SASA/RC10 session in Pretoria,South Africa, 1-5 July 2002, on:
PARTICIPATION, ORGANIZATIONAL DEMOCRACY AND
In the joint session SASA/RC10,that was very well attended (about 50 people),five papers were presented, all dealing with the connection between globalization and participation. The first, “Feminist Perspectives of Globalization ” given by Michal Palgi discussed the effects of globalization on women working in high-tech organizations and conditions for their inclusion in decision-making and power positions. Complementing it was an analysis of third world women participation in public life while attempting to cope with the effects of globalization presented by Priya Narismulu,in her paper “Challenging Master Narratives: Globalization and Women ’s Participation in Public life”. Ito Narihiko, talked about “Rosa Luxemburg’s Perspective on Globalization, Inequality, and the Formation of Identities”. He analyzed Rosa Luxemburg’s “Accumulation of Capital ” and related it to the present processes of globalization. Tomonaga Taraiko’s paper “Marx on Capitalist Globalization ”discussed the constant development and modification of Marx ’s conception of capitalist globalization, while David Hemson addressed the topic of “Intellectuals, Participation and the Knowledge Revolution”. He discussed the role of intellectuals and dilemmas they faced in South Africa, in face of the growing inequalities and poverty. Dasarath Chetty served as Chair and discussant; he raised issues that were subsequently addressed in the lively discussion that followed. Particularly impressive in this discussion was the translation of the theoretical into the practical and vice versa.
Reported: Michal Palgi
2nd WORLD SOCIAL FORUM - PORTO ALEGRE
(from January 31st to February 5th, 2002)
Democratic participation as a tool for civilising globalisation
(architecture of a global democratic regulation, political education, democratic labour relations)
from the international Research Committee on participation, organisational democracy and self-management
The International Research Committee on participation, organizational democracy and self-management, created in 1978 within ISA, gathers about 300 sociologists, researchers and academics from the five continents. It is one of the very few international academic bodies involved in the World Social Forum. Direct and representative participation in a context of globalization, together with participatory research (involving social actors) are major topics in its activities. Therefore the Committee found it quite normal to decide to be present last year at the first WSF that was devoted to improve democratic participation faced with major and immediate global stakes. This year, the decision was taken to better feed the debates by offering a program with three workshops, which attracted other organizations, notably from the South, on topics at the core of the globalization processes:
1 - Democratic participation and political education in the process of civilizing globalization (in co-operation with the Research committee on “Political Education and Socialization” of the International Political Science Association, with the Forum International Developpement Democratie and with the Sociedade Brasileira de Sociologia (SBS).
Often interlinked, citizens’ participation and political education and socialization are the necessary pre-conditions for any democratic and efficient civil movement, from local levels to the global one. They are also necessary for people to act according to a clear vision of the links between these local, national, regional and global levels.
2 -Direct and representative participation in the architecture of global democratic regulation (in co-operation with brazilian and latin american organisations; in discussion with the European foundation)
In response both to some social protests all over the world, and to some requirements of the business itself, a beginning regulatory process can be observed at global level. A new architecture is being built, step-by-step, which could be a multi-level system of regulation: at global, regional, country, local levels. Citizens and social actors should play a major role at each level of this system, in order to improve both democracy and efficiency.
3 - Participation, organisational democracy and self management in labour relations ( in co-operation with the Associaחדo latino-americana de sociologia and with the Associaחדo brasileira para promoחדo da participaחדo (participe); in discussion with ILO).
Labour relations are a very important field for the improvement of dignity, freedom and democracy in people’s lives. The growing globalization of business has often a great impact on workers’ lives, which requires more organizational democracy within the workplaces and firms. Workers’ participation is the main tool in this aim. It may also be a tool for learning democratic processes day after day.
Moreover, our Research Committee will organize a session about the WSF itself during the World Congress of Sociology next July in Brisbane.
As researchers, and along with NGO’s, elects and unionists, we believe that we can bring our contribution in analysis, and in building relevant questioning schemes and comprehension keys, or even proposals.
Having - as researchers - a constant critical posture means being defiant of any “one way thought”, as well as supporting pluralistic reflection, and observing convergence in critical analysis with actors committed to alternative processes, especially with some independent actors from the South suffering from an undemocratic globalization.
In this regard, we take for granted that the World Social Forum is a necessary meeting point to co-ordinate the discussions and proposals at global level which has become the relevant one for the main debates on social rights, sustainable development, environment and scientific ethics, also about the future of democracy faced with fundamentalisms and various dominating systems.
One accurate hypothesis is worth debating about: Do we not attend today an historical process from a “wild” globalization to a civilized one, confronting actors, interests and ideologies – a process which is to be compared with the several-stepped progress which occurred in the XIXth century, leading European societies from “wild capitalism” towards democratic regulation? Citizens’ direct commitment and representative participation were already a lever for new counter powers and then for building democratic rules and institutions.
In the same way, Porto Alegre might be a major step in the historical process in which civil society gets involved in civilizing globalization.