José Luis Sampedro (1917 – 2013) was a philosopher, economist and writer born in Barcelona. His humanist vision of social reality led him to become an intellectual reference for the Spanish left.

His criticism of the capitalist economy was based on the idea that this economic system dehumanizes and turns people into slaves of consumerism. An anarchist and leftist militant, his books critically explain what we can do in Western societies to improve our quality of life based on a more humane economic and social model.

Phrases and reflections of José Luis Sampedro

Raised in Tangier, Morocco until the age of thirteen, Sampedro’s life was long but intense. Among the many recognitions he obtained, the National Prize of the Spanish Letters stands out, an honor that was granted to him in 2011.

In today’s article we will get to know this humanist in greater depth through the 70 best phrases of José Luis Sampedro .

1. They rule us through fear.

On the ability of power to instill fear of political and social change.

2. We are nature. Putting money as the supreme good leads to catastrophe.

A society that is only driven by money is a society with a corrupt ethic.

3. May 15 has to be more than an oasis in the desert; it has to be the beginning of an arduous struggle until, in effect, we are neither taken nor considered to be “merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers. Let us say “no” to financial tyranny and its devastating consequences.

About the 15-M movement and its objectives.

4. The Western way of life is ending.

On the last few tails that, in José Luis Sampedro’s opinion, current capitalism is giving.

5. Hispanic religious worship has given way to a new faith, in which priests emerge from an underground cavity and officiate with their feet.

A scathing, verse-based critique of religion in Spain.

6. I have heard that buses in Barcelona will not be allowed to advertise condoms during the Pope’s visit to Spain. Will it also not be possible to make love during the Pope’s visit to Spain?

Another irony about the capacity of the Catholic Church to censor all kinds of expressions that do not agree with its doctrine.

7. When I say Humanity I exaggerate, because I believe that there is no Humanity; there are human beings. It has been two thousand years since Ancient Greece, technical progress has been made in a fabulous, almost improbable way, but we continue to kill each other, not knowing how to live together on this planet. Man has not matured enough.

A great reflection by Sampedro on the barbarity of war.

8. There are peripheral cultures where being something is more important than having something. While here one is only what one has and what one does not have is not.

On the self-centeredness and materialism of European society.

9. One writes on the basis of being a miner of oneself.

Interesting thought about the expression of your own ideas.

10. What they call “Public Opinion” is a media opinion: an opinion created by education and the media.

It is difficult to have our own criteria in such a mediatized society and in which education restricts the range of possibilities for thinking and rethinking our way of life.

11. Without freedom of thought, freedom of expression is useless.

In fact, they are two principles with a strong connection.

12. Although the Vatican maintains that chastity is the supreme value, in any case, it seems to me the greatest sexual aberration.

As animals, we must be sexual, at least if we want to be.

13. Capitalism is exhausted.

Another sentence by José Luis Sampedro in relation to the capitalist system.

14. It is astonishing that Humanity still does not know how to live in peace, that words such as 'competitiveness' are the ones that command in front of words such as 'coexistence'.

The law of the market makes us insensitive to others.

15. That people accept the cuts and see them as almost necessary is due to one of the most important forces motivating man; fear. To govern by fear is very effective. If you threaten people with your throat, and then don’t slit their throats, but exploit them, you hook them to a cart… They will think; well, at least you haven’t cut our throats.

The role of fear in the absence of social protest is absolutely fundamental.

16. From childhood we are taught; first to believe what the authorities, the priests, the parents tell us… And then to reason about what we have believed. Freedom of thought is the opposite; first we reason, and then we believe what we have thought.

A great way to indicate that unlearning the values and norms learned is an act against nature.

17. There are two types of economists: those who work to make the rich richer and those who work to make the poor less poor.

One of José Luis Sampedro’s most remembered phrases.

18. In April 1939 I realized that mine had not won. Neither one nor the other were mine.

It’s strange, but Sampedró fought on the national side.

19. When I was nine, I tried to become a Jesuit. At 19, an anarchist.

His change of mind was radical.

20. We are in a crisis that I call barbaric, because it is barbaric.

The economic crisis was devastating in Spain. Hence Sampedro’s comment.

21. The system is broken and lost, so you have a future.

Precisely because of the possibility of inaugurating a new time.

22. In your hunger you rule.

For reflection.

23. We would have to be outraged 1,000 times over.

Of course, the political situation in Spain is to be angry with the system.

24. To get off is: while the river of humanity continues historically ahead, I sit in the gutter and watch them pass by. Because I don’t need addictions, I am left with everything that humanity has done so far, for many years.

A commendable philosophical attitude.

25. Austerity is very sad when it is imposed on us, but it doesn’t cost anything when you have it.

A great nuance on the concept of austerity, so badly used by economic forces.

26. We are living in a tragic moment. The current minister is a threat to Spanish education. He is a man whose policy must be defined as a counter-reform policy. In the history of Spain there is a moment in the 16th century, when the Protestants, Luther and others, began in Europe, when the Counter-Reformation was established, as an opposition to the advance. Wert represents the Counter-Reformation and with it it is not possible to form free citizens.

About Juan Ignacio Wert, Minister of Culture of the Popular Party.

27. I’m not saying that the past is the best. I’m saying that capitalism was once nascent, but now it’s unsustainable. The best definition of its decline was given by Bush. He said: “I have suspended the rules of the market to save the market. That is, the market is incompatible with its own rules.

Lethal conclusion about the exhaustion of the system.

28. What has most impressed me about this ending 20th century is the human stupidity and brutality.

A century full of bad times.

29. Europe is like a boss who never gets on the phone.

It’s there, but it never resolves conflicts when they arise.

30. I always have a notebook open, where I write down what I’m thinking, but I don’t do it every day. It’s not every day that things happen that are worth writing down. If you force that task and do it every day, you expose yourself to writing texts that are not important.

On the art of prioritizing the truly relevant ideas or events.

31. After this crisis, another crisis will follow in the short term.

This is the logic of today’s market.

32. I am not interested in happiness and I do not think it depends on greater or lesser intelligence. But certainly not making too many demands makes it easier to get along with oneself, which is my substitute for happiness.

An austere life is the best potion to be happy.

33. Are people crazy? No, people are manipulated.

We let ourselves be influenced too easily.

34. [The Republic] gave hope, illusion (except to those who wanted undue privileges), and I lived it as natural. That’s why Francoism was so unnatural, anti-human! [In the war] the North fell in 1937…, and I was mobilised as a Franco soldier: seeing bishops blessing cannons convinced me that this side defended privileges and pesetas. (On the Civil War).

Talking about the first half of the 20th century in Spain.

35. This world is betraying life.

One of those phrases of José Luis Sampedro as raw as authentic.

36. The day one is born one begins to die a little. We are used to seeing death as something negative, and I am so close that I cannot stop thinking about this matter. but I think with vital joy. What we are not taught is that the day you are born you start to die, and death accompanies us every day.

About death and how we perceive it in our society.

37. Do we have much free time to live, or do we constantly ask to be lived?

That’s how pessimistic Sampedro is about how we face existence.

38. Freedom is like a kite. It flies because it’s tied.

A paradox that other authors have already explained.

39. For it is by touching the bottom, even if it is in bitterness and degradation, that one comes to know who one is. and where then one begins to tread firmly.

When we have a strong jolt is when we understand where we are and where we can go.

40. The system has set up a casino so that the same people always win.

A metaphor about the market system.

41. We are educated to be producers and consumers, not to be free men.

A direct criticism of the educational system of our time.

42. We are at a time when there is a lot of talk about problems. The most serious today is the Ministry of Education. With its cuts and insensitivity, the least privileged children are being deprived of opportunities, study hours, classes, classrooms and support teachers. The intelligence of these children is being emasculated, closing the doors to their future while favouring religious education with secular money.

Specifically criticizing Spain’s educational system.

43. You can only educate if you have resources that are well placed in a good education system.

Another sentence giving importance to the education of each country.

44. We should live as many times as the trees, which after a bad year put out new leaves and start again.

Getting rid of vices should be as easy as getting rid of dry leaves.

45. Achieving free thought in today’s society is difficult because democracy is perverted and hijacked.

The media is to blame for this.

46. On a sudden impulse they hugged, hugged, hugged each other. Each one of them put the other’s breast into his chest until they kissed with their hearts. They felt each other’s heart beating, they let go, and without further ado, the old man got into the car. The two glances still embraced each other, through the glass, as Renato drove off.

A fragment of “The Etruscan Smile”.

47. How could I believe in sin, an idea so much a product of pride? If God is the creator of the entire universe, can he be offended by a vermin that has gone wrong and that scratches the surface of a small planet? It takes an exaggerated idea of what man is to believe that he is capable of offending an infinite creator.

Another highlight.

48. Man is the measure of all things, as the classical philosopher said. But now the mania is to forget him, to bury him under a landslide of things. One must travel with the Kodak, for it is a matter of the camera seeing; one falls ill of failure if one does not have papers in the bank or an impressive car; one exhausts one’s life in accumulating titles, pesetas, ribbons, chirimbols, quotes in the newspapers… As if the essential thing were not just the opposite: to surround things with man!

Philosophical reflection on the prevailing narcissism in the 21st century.

49. On the sleeping lips of the old man has settled, like a butterfly, a smile: the idea that was fluttering in his heart when he fell asleep: Great, life!

Vitalist thought of the great Sampedro.

50. I’m not interested in happiness. I just want to be right with myself.

A certain amount of resignation is key to being happy and not worrying too much.

51. The current system is dominated by three other magic words: Productivity, competitiveness and innovation, which should be replaced by sharing, cooperation and recreation.

Three key points to change and improve our societies.

52. Even if you lie to me, tell me you love me. I was repeating it to him, and many sweet things…(…) He was surely happy, yes, surely… It was nice, you know; to make happy is nice…

A fragment in which Sampedro talks about love.

53. Time is invincible because it destroys itself at every instant.

Great thinking about time and its essence.

54. You can always, when you want to.

You can if you want. If you don’t want to, you make excuses.

55. The child is always looking. Then, if he does not feel wanted, he will necessarily think that the world is failing and rejecting him.

About the attention the children deserve.

56. What does it matter, my mouth is closed, when you think with your soul they hear you!

Everything is transmitted even if we don’t want it to.

57. Remember well what I tell you, my son; do not forget: women will always surprise you. You think you already know the whole deck, from the queen to the jack, and you get a new card.

About women and their amazing behaviors.

58. Much is said about the right to life, but not about how important the duty to live it is.

A turn of the screw on the abortion issue.

59. My pedagogy always boiled down to two words: love and provocation.

A way of synthesizing their pedagogical approaches.

60. It is necessary to create an economy that is more humane, more based on solidarity, and capable of contributing to the development of the dignity of peoples.

On the urgent need to improve the economy.

61. Public opinion is influenced by the media, and the media are in the hands of those who command, and those who command favour those who say what is convenient for them and erase all that is not convenient for them. So public opinion is, above all, media opinion.

Another sentence by José Luis Sampedro in which he criticizes the work of the media.

62. Life is a difficult navigation without a good compass.

We all need to have a north to guide us from.

63. To the powerful, the more concessions are made, the more they demand, they are insatiable.

That’s why it’s good to have strong, resilient counterpowers.

64. Democracy is not the government of the people anywhere. What do you vote on? What makes us vote.

Unfortunately, the people vote without knowing why or what for.

65. …In these times it is easier to spread immorality than decency.

Ethics have been lost along the way.

66. The definitive step has been taken, memory is no longer nostalgia but liberation…

Time cures everything.

67. I never intended to make history, but to better understand love and power, those two great passions of all times.

Its two main intellectual objectives.

68. The key is the inner development of each one, not the outer one.

On personal development, the key to a harmonious life

69. Time is not gold; time is life.

Motivating and vitalist phrase of the great Sampedro.

70. Because only you have the wings for the flight that kills and gives life.

A great poetic phrase that should make us think.