Miguel Beltran Villalva


Miguel Beltrán (Granada 1935), Master of Arts in Sociology from Yale University and Extraordinary Prize for bachelor's and doctoral degrees, is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology of the Autonomous University of Madrid, of which he was director and vice dean of its Faculty of Economic and business Sciences. He has been a contract professor at the Universities of Florence and Catania, associate professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science , visiting researcher at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques of Paris and visiting professor at universities in Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Chile.

He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Spanish Journal of Sociology (RES), and has been part of the Editorial Boards of the Spanish Journal of Sociological Research (REIS) and the International Journal of Sociology (RIS). In his day he was Secretary General of the Autonomous University of Madrid, the Institute of Public Opinion and the Ministry of the Presidency. As public recognition of his academic contribution, he received the Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X the Wise in 2003.

His main fields of work and specialization have been the sociology of knowledge and science, social theory, inequality and social structure, and the sociological study of Public Administration. His books include The Spanish Bureaucratic Elite (1977); Ideologies and public spending in Spain 1814-1860 (1977); Science and sociology (1979); Officials before the Administration reform (1985); The productivity of the Spanish Administration: a comparative analysis (1991); The social reality (1991); Society and language. A sociological reading of Saussure and Chomsky (1991); Public action in the democratic regime (2000); Social perspectives and knowledge (2000); The social structure (2004); and Bourgeoisie and liberalism in 19th century Spain: sociology of class domination (2010).

In December 2008, the Sociological Research Center published Sociology and Social Reality , a tribute book on the occasion of his retirement.

National Prize for Sociology and Political Science 2020

by Prof. D. Cristóbal Torres Albero

Just a year ago came the news of the awarding of the 2020 National Prize for Sociology and Political Science to Professor Miguel Beltrán Villalva. Something that, in the midst of the anxiety that accompanies us during this last two years, has filled with joy and satisfaction a very large number of sociologists and political scientists for whom Professor Beltrán is a permanent example to imitate for his lucidity and finesse in the study of society, the patient and infinite teaching dedication, and his altruism, righteousness and kindness in personal relationships.

Miguel Beltrán began his academic career in his native Granada, and in the very distant 1957, as an assistant professor of political law, already pointing out ways, since that same year he was awarded an extraordinary bachelor's degree award. An honor that he would repeat some time later upon completing his doctoral studies. And he retired, as a professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, in a distant 2006. In the half century that separates both dates, and among many other tasks, achievements and responsibilities, he was director of the Department of Sociology of the Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences of the Autonomous University, a university space in which he has taught for more than forty years.

Even at his current 86 years, he continues as an emeritus professor, keeping his office open and as orderly and welcoming as ever, famous in the Faculty for always having the door wide open for students and colleagues.

From the perspective of scientific work, his research has given rise to a total of 16 books, 4 of them co-authored, 7 compilations and 131 articles, book chapters or other publications. His last book was published in 2016, that is, ten years after his formal retirement. On the occasion of this, all of his colleagues and disciples coordinated to edit a tribute book that the CIS published and in which a total of one hundred colleagues participated in recognition of the triple bond, intellectual, teaching and friendship, that we maintain with him.

But Miguel Beltrán's work throughout this half century has not been limited to his scientific and academic activity. At the beginning of the sixties, Spain still had a university typical of a pre-industrial society. The same one that, referring to the end of the 19th century, Pio Baroja so masterfully caricatured at the beginning of his novel The Tree of Science . That is why it is not surprising that in 1963 he entered, and again as number one in his class, in the body of Technicians of the Civil Administration of the State, in which he remained active and made it compatible with his status as a professor until obtaining the professorship. in 1982.

In this hybridization between his career in public service and his academic career, he was general secretary of the Autonomous University of Madrid under the guidance of its first rector, Professor Luis Sánchez Agesta; as well as the Institute of Public Opinion, the predecessor of the current CIS, alongside Professor Francisco Murillo Ferrol. As institutional recognition of his entire career in public service, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit and the Order of Alfonso X the Wise.

This recognition is not surprising since Miguel Beltrán's performance, as a staff member of the General State Administration and a university professor, has always been dominated by foresight, diligence, technical competence and, in short, efficiency and rationality. in accordance with the features with which Max Weber characterized the ideal practice of officials in legal-rational administration, typical of modernized countries. But, in addition, he has managed to combine these formal principles with a moral orientation of his life that, following Weber again, flows without interruption between the ethics of conviction, in his case a democratic and neutral conviction with respect to the conflict. partisan, and the ethics of responsibility that the double bind of public servant and teacher has imposed on him.

A brief memory will better exemplify these abstract words. During his time as secretary general of the Autonomous University, back in the late sixties, he had to deal with the management of fines and sanction files that a self-attributed government authority imposed on the most active professors against the dictatorship. His imaginative solution was to achieve, combining the ethics of conviction and responsibility, that these files were permanently maintained in the queue of the matters that he, as general secretary of the university, had the obligation to complete.

Sociologists know well that, beyond the singular value of each person, individual actions only unfold and make sense in a specific social and historical context. And those of Professor Beltrán, as well as those of many other prominent professors of his generation, was the meritorious and priceless task of removing Spanish sociology and political science from the deinstitutionalization and its corresponding substantive atony that the Civil War, among many others, evils for our country, had caused. A situation that twenty years after the fratricidal conflict still persisted.

One of the academic niches that most decisively contributed to changing this situation for the better was the so-called Granada School, which, drawing on precedents such as Fernando de los Ríos and Francisco Ayala, includes, among others, professors of the stature of Enrique Gómez Arboleya or the aforementioned Sánchez Agesta and Murillo Ferrol, and which continues in a long series of contemporary constitutionalists, political scientists and sociologists, all of them disciples of Professor Francisco Murillo Ferrol.

Professor Murillo, for his intimates Don Francisco - as Amando de Miguel gracefully pointed out - has been without a doubt Miguel Beltrán's most outstanding teacher. The intellectual and emotional consideration that he has shown him, and I would say even his personal devotion, is another proof of Miguel's honesty and bonhomie.

It is in this academic affiliation that Professor Beltrán has developed a conception of sociology as fine and fertile for the advancement of the social sciences as the notion of Social Reality , a dense, complex and complex network of relationships and social structures. heterogeneous in its configuration based on the interaction between the logic of social action and the dynamics of the social structure.

And, consistent with the previous one, the idea of Theoretical and Methodological Pluralism in the comprehensive and explanatory approach to said social reality that he substantiated, among other publications, in his well-known article “ Five ways of access to social reality ”, in which it bases a pragmatic and integrative approach of the demands of the broadest scientific canon with the singularities and properties of the social, among which value relationships stand out. All of this in order to draw the map of that social reality, in which attention to the welfare State, social structure and inequality, public Administration and the problems of the State and politics, or many other related topics knowledge, science, culture, in addition to what has already been mentioned about social theory and the methodology of social sciences, are a constant in his work.

In short, Miguel Beltrán teaches in his work that it is possible to give an account of society without giving up one iota of either the explanatory demands of scientific work, or the evaluative and empathetic a prioris of our human condition.

And what can be said about his teaching as a teacher? It is enough to remember here what Professor José Juan Toharia - his companion for many years at the Autonomous University and also another of our teachers - has always said about him, that "he speaks with as much precision as he writes."

Term. At the ceremony to present the national award to Professor Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, held in March 2017, I ended my speech with a double declaration of optimism about the future of the social sciences in our country and in our beloved Spain. Nothing has disrupted the first part of that statement. Quite the opposite, given that it adds and continues the evidence of this meliorative career, as the presentation of these two national awards shows. But as for the second part of it, it is well known that some wanted and unwanted events of social action have tested not only the community condition of our Spanish identity but even global public health.

It could be said that Professor Murillo Ferrol reminds me, from beyond, the advantages of always being pessimistic, as he liked to insist with such imaginative and refined sayings that are already famous in our academy. Let us remember, for example, the one who with his sober Granada grace always liked to state: “For once I am an optimist in my life and it is about the future of pessimism in the world .”

But Professor Miguel Beltrán, separating himself for once from his beloved Don Francisco, has also taught those of us who consider ourselves his disciples to combine the skepticism of his teacher, unavoidable in our work as social scientists, with the advantages of thinking in optimistic terms to face with prudence and pragmatism, as well as with clairvoyance and determination, the setbacks and challenges of the future of our complex and contradictory contemporary societies.

This vitality and confidence that emerges from the democratic and legal condition of our political system, from the prevalence of a broad conception of citizenship full of social rights, and from the centrality of scientific logic and its technical application in the orientation of the public and private action, allow me now to renew this feeling of optimistic hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of our history, as well as to know how to identify and choose the path that offers the best possible future for our common Spanish citizenship.

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