‘The experience of modern society in Spain’, the name of the research group, is a mission statement: that of inquiring into knowledge of modernity from the perspective of human beings. But modernity is an excessively broad term, which should be delimited and clarified. First and foremost, chronologically because, although the transformations as a whole giving shape to it started to occur at least as of the fifteenth century, the group’s members are focusing their research on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with some or other sally into the eighteenth century. Accordingly, they are scholars of contemporaneity. Secondly, because the term is sometimes understood as being synonymous to a process of modernisation which would accompany capitalism and whose advance would be inexorable, thus determining people’s lives. The modernity studied by the group is not of this type, but that of Baudelaire, of a transitory, fleeting and contingent kind, which seeks the poetical in the historical.
It has been said that modernity accelerates time and reduces space. It changes the principal parameters of mankind’s relationship with the world and, in doing so, modifies their very capacity to experience it. Namely, it alters the conditions in which humans can give meaning to their lives. This is of prime importance for it also has a decisive influence on the possibility of transforming the world and adapting it to their needs. As can be seen, the group produces a committed history, but with people, with their aspirations and woes. But neither, however, with its meta-narratives, nor with a particular category of subject. It is part history, but distances itself from those distinctions that may inadvertently engage with new and, perhaps, more subtle oppressions. We could call it ‘post-metaphysics’, but it is above all the sentinel of the happiness of all humans and the very continuity of the planet.
As a history of this kind should be critical, the group is precisely characterised by its commitment to the discipline’s theoretical and methodological renewal. And for its quest to transcend its limits, coming into closer contact with the rest of the humanities and social sciences. Thus, its members also move between the social and post-social, between feminism and post-feminism, between modernity and post-modernity. The intention is to attempt to challenge the conventional, to delve deeper into the unknown. The past achievements from the perspective of discourse, gender, emotions and oral history are new opportunities for self-criticism. They renew the spirit of adventure; an exciting and absorbing adventure, but above all absorbing. This is not a group for truths or authorities, but a forum of debate on always renascent doubts and research.