Country Listing

Spain Table of Contents


The Military in Society

Officers of the Spanish armed forces have tended to regard themselves as highly patriotic, self-denying, and devoted to service. They attach importance to the symbols of Spanish unity and historical continuity. Sensitive to criticism and extremely conscious of perceived slights to honor, they have constantly sought reassurance that their role was appreciated by the government and by the public.

The military careerists' sense of forming a community set at a distance from civilian society has been heightened by their style of living. They usually have been housed on military compounds; they have shopped in military outlets, have obtained free education for their children at military schools, have used military hospitals, and have taken holidays at special facilities made available only to the armed forces. This isolated life has not been entirely a matter of choice, but has been necessitated by low wage scales. Until 1978 the majority of officers could maintain themselves only by holding second jobs, after finishing their military duties at midday.

Rates of intermarriage within the armed services community have always been high, as has been the ratio of sons of military personnel choosing military careers. As of 1979, about 67 percent of those entering the army military academy were following their fathers into the service. The corresponding ratio for the navy was 81 percent, and for the air force it was 54 percent. The future of the officers' group, as a distinctive social class, appeared to be in jeopardy by the mid-1980s. Uncompetitive salaries, greater career opportunities in the modern civilian economy, and reduced prospects in an officer corps that was faced with dramatic staff reductions presented a discouraging prospect to the sons of officers. A newer source of entrants to the military academies was developing among the sons of noncommissioned officers (NCOs), however, for whom the free education and the potential for social advancement were important inducements.

In terms of its status as a profession, military service has traditionally ranked high, below that of doctors and of engineers, but higher than that of lawyers, of deputies of the Cortes, and of members of the priesthood. In an opinion poll taken in late 1986, concerning the prestige of nineteen of the leading institutions of the nation, the armed services ranked seventh, below that of the monarchy, the Roman Catholic Church, the press, and the internal security forces, but above the Cortes, the central government, the courts, unions, universities, and the business community.

Data as of December 1988