Premio Nacional de Sociología y Ciencia Política 2014

Biographical sketch of Mr Víctor Pérez-Díaz
by Elisa Chuliá

Víctor Pérez-Díaz

If intellectual brilliance, prudence in judgement and a mild manner are invaluable qualities for an academic in any time, their importance grows in times of social unrest and political uncertainty, of which there is no shortage in contemporary Spanish history and the present day. Víctor Pérez-Díaz has demonstrated these qualities in more than 100 published texts, as well as innumerable public speeches, about practically all dimensions of society. The consistency and continuity of his academic career and the extensive dissemination of his work in Spain and abroad have earned him several awards in Europe and the United States. The 2014 National Award for Sociology and Political Science is added to the extensive recognition for his teaching and research career that is both productive and solid, and spans more than half a century.

Those who have closely followed the intense intellectual activity of Víctor Pérez-Díaz agree that his writings, his classes and his conversation about the way sociology is practised and society is understood are highly influential. A sociologist committed to comprehending problems in all their complexity, who, instead of fragmenting them artificially, places them in broad time and space frameworks that enable comparisons. And a society of citizens who think and act according to their preferences and interests, but also their cultural values, and have historically made progress through collective learning processes completely foreign to major political and social engineering projects.

Taking civil society in a broad sense as an analytical and normative reference, as conceived by the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century, the sociology of Víctor Pérez-Díaz analyses social reality by trying to understand the experiences of those who shape it, and the meaning that they give to their actions. And he does this not only out of scientific, but also civic conviction: society must be heard and given access to plural and accurate information, enabling it to deliberate and adopt reasonable decisions, not treated as a child or subjected to the more or less well-intentioned rationalist projects of the elites in power, as Pérez-Díaz often calls them. Only those elites who are as aware of their own limits as of the fragility and contingency of democracy, who feel that they are part of civil society and not bearers of a moral project superior to it, deserve the respect and support of the citizens.

Through the dissemination of his ideas and arguments and his genuine willingness to talk and debate, over the last decades Víctor Pérez-Díaz has managed to create and consolidate an open intellectual community, made up of students, peers and friends who share an interest in analysing and discussing public affairs with freedom, honesty and trust, aimed at finding a more provisional than conclusive truth, which can never be reduced to slogans and mottos. In a country such as Spain, this is a very unusual achievement. Therefore, Víctor Pérez-Díaz deserves specific appreciation, in addition to the recognitions for the effort and work he has put into developing his thinking, building his arguments, teaching and disseminating the results of his research. Thank you, Víctor.