Directing Dissent: Governing Political Dissidence in Spanish Prisons


  • Alison Hogg


Political prisoner, political praxis, normalisation, fragmentation, risk management


Under article 25.2 of the Spanish Constitution the incarceration of a person should aim to re-educate and socially rehabilitate. Along the same line, Art. 59.2 of the General Penitentiary Law of 21 September 1979 asserts that treatment in prisons, should aim to motivate the incarcerated to become law abiding and to respect themselves, their family, peers, and society. This is allegedly achieved by them serving their sentences under conditions that reflect their individualized scientific grade (Art. 72 GPL). How do these aims translate into practice for a group of individuals, ETA members, condemned for offenses committed in reaction to a perceived oppressive majoritarianism? It is hypothesized that the Spanish state either rehabilitates the deviants thus showing them the error of their ways and directs them to normality through a highly individualized assessment based on politically constructed common factors, or contains and civically and politically excludes those who resist.

A Foucauldian approach is used to analyze the mechanisms of power and, the security and penal apparatuses erected to manage and discipline this collective, more precisely of governmentality, normalization, and of biopower. Particular attention is paid to the techniques used to ‘normalize’ and govern this collective. At first sight, one would think that only disciplinary mechanisms in a penitentiary setting need be used to achieve the earlier stated aims given that they have a ‘captive audience’; however, in reaction to an intransigent collective with an embedded political praxis , the State has adopted a hybridized system of power. The system combines individual and collective security mechanisms, and legal instruments to achieve this objective. In managing risk, the Spanish penal apparatus has adopted strategies that involve politically and civically castrating those that are deemed too high a risk and incorrigible.





How to Cite

Hogg, A. (2011) “Directing Dissent: Governing Political Dissidence in Spanish Prisons”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 2(1), p. 28. Available at: (Accessed: 2 July 2022).



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