Premio Nacional de Sociología y Ciencia Política 2016

Biographical sketch of Mr Emilio Lamo de Espinosa
by Cristóbal Torres Albero

Emilio Lamo de Espinosa

Universidad Complutense de Madrid professor Emilio Lamo de Espinosa has a PhD Extraordinary Award (1973) in Law by the Complutense, and a PhD in Sociology by the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he continued his studies and has been a Visiting Professor. In 1982 he attained the Chair in sociology at the Complutense, from which he retired last academic year; today he is still a member of the Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas and an emeritus professor. Meanwhile, in 2012, he was appointed a PhD Honoris Causa by the Universidad de Salamanca.

During his forty-three years of teaching, Lamo de Espinosa has published twenty-two books and over one hundred scientific monographs in the form of articles, book chapters and reviews. His first publications, during the Franco period, addressed recovering our intellectual history, focusing on the life and work of Julián Besteiro and democratic socialism. And also a constructive criticism of Marxism, which he included in his book La teoría de la reificación. De Marx a la Escuela de Frankfurt, arguments of American pragmatism developed in the Symbolic Interactionism of George Herbert, a school of thought and author practically unknown in Spain at the time. He has also developed the sociology of law and social deviation in his texts Delitos sin víctimas. Orden social y ambivalencia moral, in which he opened the debate on crimes against morals from a radically liberal perspective.

The insight and analytical acuteness of his works contributed most to the progress of sociological consciousness with the sociology of knowledge and science. This first occurred when he identified and analysed the issue of social reflexivity in his work La sociedad reflexiva, even before such distinguished foreign professors as Anthony Giddens or Ulrich Beck; and secondly, when he developed his idea of the knowledge society in the monograph Sociedades de cultura y sociedades de ciencia, which received the Jovellanos International Essay Prize; and finally, when he traced an historic and conceptual map of this discipline in the volume Sociología del conocimiento y de la ciencia, written in collaboration with Professor José María González García and Cristóbal Torres Albero. This level of continued excellence in his work extends throughout general sociological theory, represented by milestones such as the two editions of the Diccionario de Sociología, published together with professors Salvador Giner and Cristóbal Torres, or by leading the sociological theory group of the Federación Española de Sociología. He was president of this federation, which formalised the scientific association of sociology in Spain, between 2007 and 2010.

His dedication to studying the problems of Spain and Europe, and the emergence of the transnational society and its governance are also worthy of note, as seen in books (of which he his author and publisher) such as Entre dos siglos. Reflexiones sobre la democracia española, Bajo puertas de fuego. El nuevo desorden internacional, or the more recent Europa después de Europa. This latest focus of his intellectual work is no surprise as Professor Emilio Lamo de Espinosa has not only maintained an outstanding level of academic and scientific work, but he has also shown a solid, constant approach towards politics and management in different positions, institutions and companies. Outstanding milestones in his career include his role in preparing and developing the University Reform Act of 1983, making it possible to modernise Spanish universities; his leadership in setting-up and managing the Universities Council, the Spanish Hall at EXPO 92, the Instituto Universitario de Investigación Ortega y Gasset and, more recently, the Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales y Estratégicos, without a doubt the most prolific and well-known Spanish think tank.

All this is added to his outstanding contribution to public debate with over 300 columns written in the main Spanish newspapers. This intense activity by Professor Lamo de Espinosa geared towards published opinion pieces is not a surprise either. In fact, far from believing that sociology is merely a good explanation aimed at the ivory tower in which scientists too often live, he conceives it as a way of bringing his results closer to a large educated audience. Taking on board his approach, we could say that sociologists must not only write for our colleagues, but also for audiences that are increasingly more numerous and educated, and that to some extent they are because they are aware of our findings and ideas. In good reflexivist logic, Professor Emilio Lamo de Espinosa would say that sociologists describe social reality but, above all, we are the instrument that uses this reality to understand ourselves.

These lines, which offer the wonderful opportunity to gloss the work and academic and professional career of Professor Lamo de Espinosa, highlight that the famous Matthew Effect is not necessary for his name and work to have already become a milestone in the path taken by the Spanish social science community in our daily attempt to contribute to the progress of knowledge of social reality. For all this, and on behalf of all your colleagues, disciples and friends, thank you dear Emilio.