Political Reading — Readers’ comments

Table of contents

  1. Comments by reader Sanzio on A. García Calvo’s “Analysis of Welfare Society”

Comments by reader Sanzio on A. García Calvo’s “Analysis of Welfare Society”

On 28 December 2012, Sanzio wrote:

Hey Folks,

I think I would translate the phrase “Sociedad del Bienestar” to “Society of Well-being” or “Well-being Society” and not “Welfare Society”. I am not sure of the perception of the word welfare on other English speaking places, but in the US it is used to refer to the institution and systems of (hypocritical) assistance to the poor by the government and it doesn’t resonate with the meaning that Agustín [García Calvo] places on the phrase which I think he means as the logic of society that points toward development and progress. Just felt like pointing that out since I think he is attacking the ideology and logic of development and how it relates to the fallacy of the individual. Of course, the welfare institution also needs to be attacked but I think that using the translation that you are using might confuse people.


On 29 December 2012, we replied:

Dear Sanzio,

thank you very much for your observations on the Spanish term “Sociedad del Bienestar”, and the possibly misleading connotations of our translating it as “Welfare Society”. I perfectly agree that “Welfare Society” does not convey exactly the same idea as “Sociedad del Bienestar”, and what’s worse, it doesn’t even appear to have the same meaning in different English-speaking countries. (The Wikipedia article “Welfare state” and the associated “Talk page” contain a certain amount of discussion on all this, and the article also has a good section on the etymology of the word “welfare”). The problem I see with your suggestion to use “Society of well-being” (or something along these lines) is that, while it is certainly a good literal translation of the Spanish “Sociedad del Bienestar”, it is not, as far as I know, an “established term”, or an expression that is frequently used in political discourse, and if I don’t misunderstand Agustín García Calvo’s intentions, I’d say that his book is precisely about attacking “established ideas” and revealing the fallacies inherent in certain kinds of political jargon. So while I readily grant that your objection is justified, I still find it hard to replace the term “Welfare Society” with something that would not sound as “ideology-laden”. — May part of the problem not be in the fact that people just have different reasons or political motives for arguing against the idea that the State is (or should be) promoting people’s well-being (whatever that may mean in each case)?

Please let me add that it was a particular pleasure to read your statement that the author “is attacking the ideology and logic of development and how it relates to the fallacy of the individual”, since I had always believed that García Calvo’s “Critique of the Individual” would sound especially suspicious or unappealing to the English-speaking public (...just one of my silly prejudices, I suppose).


On 30 December 2012, Sanzio replied:


Thank you for responding.

I’m smiling a bit because I find it funny that I sent the suggestion thinking along the same lines of “attacking ‘established ideas’”, and I thought that “welfare state” or “welfare society” is not the idea that he is trying to attack in that text (which he would and does of course) but rather the point is to attack “Sociedad del Bienestar” which is the modus operandi and logic of all the “Individuals” inside our sick society who are the ones that carry out the administration of the Future by spearheading things as Development, consumerism, and Democracy.

I would then argue that “Welfare Society” does not embody the ideology we are attacking and rather obfuscates the point. This is not a big deal however since I think that the rest of the text makes the point, and very well, that he is referring to this “Bienestar” ideology and not to “welfare” as understood by English speakers.

Speaking about English speakers, here in the US it is so bad that you can easily replace “being well” with “being a capitalist” hahaha. And as far as individualism, you are not incorrect in your prejudice, I’ve gotten weird looks and even frustration when speaking against the individual.

In other things, I’ve been thinking about translating “Contra el Hombre”, have you or any comrades already started? If not, I’ll be more than happy to forward it to you once I have completed it (if I ever do).


On 1 January 2013, we replied:

Dear Sanzio,

thanks for the mail you sent me on Sunday. I’ve read it several times but I still don’t manage to wrap my head around your claim that the “sociedad del bienestar” that is mentioned in the title of the book is a reference to (as you put it) “the modus operandi and logic of all the ‘Individuals’ inside our sick society” etc. etc. — I was really glad when I saw that in your first post you were talking about the relation between García Calvo’s criticism of social institutions (or so-called “development”) and his criticism of the individual, because in my opinion that’s a very important point in the book (and for many readers perhaps not the easiest thing to understand), but I would never have thought of the “Analysis...” as a text that is primarily directed against individualism (or certain kinds of individualism), rather than against, let’s say, political institutions such as money and democratic government, and so I don’t really understand why you seem to believe that the title’s “sociedad del bienestar” is an important reference to García Calvo’s “deconstruction” of the individual. García Calvo did of course believe that the individual is, in a certain sense, an image of the State (and the State an image of the individual or his “soul”, as “statist” philosophers themselves explicitly say), but this is an idea that he doesn’t explore in much detail in the “Analysis...”, where the individual, if I am not mistaken, is rather presented as a product of the institution of money, and this is something that the title certainly doesn’t mention. So I concluded that this pretty term “sociedad del bienestar” was not much more than a name or a label that plays a certain role within the (deceitful) terminology of the powerful. But perhaps I am missing something important in all this, in which case I should be grateful to receive enlightenment....

I hope there’s no need for me to underscore that I will gladly read your drafts and discuss with you any kind of problem that you may encounter while translating “Contra el Hombre”!

Have a Happy Near Year.

On 10 March 2014, Sanzio replied:

My apologies, you are correct. My mistake was in not considering the “Sociedad del Bienestar” as a politically established and theorized concept in western spanish-speaking society, mostly thanks to not developing political consciousness in a spanish-speaking country but also because of not paying enough attention to context.

I read the text again, and you are right. “Analysis...” does not present a direct deconstruction of the individual, thought it does make references to the “Individual” problematic without making it central.

In conclusion, after reading further into the politically established term, using “Welfare Society” does fit well in this text. I might have jumped the gun in not being completely informed.

What is unfortunate is that what tends to spring up in people’s heads (in the US) when hearing about “welfare” is the entire apparatus that provides monetary and food assistance to the poor and unemployed, and not so much the apparatus that pushes for housing and neighborhood development which is directed to the middle and upper classes. To this second one is what I refer to when speaking about our “sick society”, this part of the society is the one that pushes for further individualism and believes that freedom is the ability to drive your car wherever you want and have shopping malls be readily available.

Regarding publishing the comments, please be more than welcome to do so, anonymous or not, it doesn’t matter. It is always good to motivate further discussion.

Back to the top.

Legal note: The material that you find on this website may be copied for strictly personal use, but it may not be otherwise re-edited, reproduced or republished, on the Internet or in any other form, without the express permission of the website owner.

Technical note: This website makes no use of external web analytics services, nor does it place cookies on your computer.

Printer-friendly version: Please click here to view or save this page as a printer-friendly PDF.

Copyright © 2018, Political Reading. All rights reserved.