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A book made by friends, a book about values, a book on Loek

Published onMay 09, 2022

A book made by friends, 

A book about values, 

A book on Loek

The book before you is dedicated as a Festschrift to Loek Halman on the occasion of his retirement from our university. The rich and varied contributions it contains were written by many researchers involved in the European Values Study (EVS), some from its very inception. Loek’s farewell coincides with the presentation of the new edition of the Atlas of European Values. It marks a new phase, for Loek personally, but also for this important project that the academic community at Tilburg University is rightly proud of.

Every page of this book reflects the friendship and respect that Loek inspires and also the great commitment to that important study into values over the past decades: European values, first and foremost, but as the study will show, closely linked to values elsewhere in the world, the World Values.

This moment also coincides with tensions rising in Europe and the world at large. It is becoming increasingly clear, also thanks to this study, that underlying what appear to be economic conflicts are actually, deeply and essentially, tensions between values. Dominique Moïsi’s The Geopolitics of Emotion seems to be rooted in the geopolitics of values.

The new Atlas, Loek’s last, is published at a moment when many people will understand these values differently from what they thought about them only a few months ago. At the moment that I am writing this foreword, a terrible war is raging, the ramifications of which for Europe and its values we can only guess at. Values, Europe, values of and within Europe: they continue to be a truly essential subject of research.

It is an honour for me to be invited to write the foreword to this book. I will resist the temptation to relate the history of the EVS, which I have been following with more than ordinary interest since the 1990s. The opening chapter, prepared by the editors of this book, will adequately demonstrate that this history has largely coincided with Loek Halman’s academic as well as his personal commitment to this project. In it, he is described as a quiet, somewhat introverted person. I can partially agree with that: as I remember Loek, he was firm, outspoken, and clear when it came to protecting the quality of a project against the increasingly frequent and urgent requests for snap judgements on those European values. Quietly waiting for the research to be completely finished, because completeness, diligence and integrity came first. He was in fact able to communicate that in a quite extraverted way. And not only when he was on a plane ...

That firmness also came over him in meetings with people who had sometimes backed this project with funding and other forms of support for decades. Loek tirelessly and at the same time tactfully proffered suggestions for new opportunities.

That unstoppable engagement was inspired by great motivation for the continuation of this study: it was as if Loek could still feel the encouragement of Jan Kerkhofs and Ruud de Moor, two colleagues who are no longer with us, but whose great stimulus of Loek’s passionate dedication was also perceptible to those who did not know them.

He spoke about them with great love and respect, and also about the initial years of the project, which often required pioneering efforts in various ways. With many anecdotes – sometimes he told them more than once – you knew when he was going to finish them with a somewhat affable smile or a stifled laugh. He could tell great stories about the collaboration with the World Values Survey, in particular with Ron Inglehart. This will undoubtedly have been the case the other way around as well, because Loek was not easily put out by anything: he skillfully defended the nuances and the ambiguity in and reflected by the research results, almost as if that was a European value in itself, against the, in his opinion, rather strong conclusions presented Anglo-American style. It was great to discuss them with Loek. He would sit at his desk shaking with laughter sometimes. I have fond memories of these times.

Loek’s efforts and commitment were nothing short of crucial at moments when future or essential funding was in the balance: he often was the quietly reliable and amiable ambassador whose tireless work inspired many colleagues to go canvassing once more. Make a few additional phone calls.

I know from my own experience that he was a very helpful mentor. As a datasets expert par excellence, he liked to contribute ideas based on the input they provided, offered suggestions for opportunities not yet exploited and, smiling broadly, would share with you the usually beautiful results that they yielded.

When you read the contributions to this Festschrift compiled for you, Loek, you will yourself experience in others that great commitment to EVS, for which Tilburg University is so infinitely grateful to you. In this new phase in your life, you will see how you have been a co-builder of a kind of cathedral. You helped build a project that transcends generations and which can be added to in new ways with every new phase. Building cathedrals: that is typically European too, in a firm belief that values change, but also provide foundations. Maybe for that very reason.

All the best to you!

Wim van de Donk

Rector Magnificus and President of the Tilburg University Executive Board

Picture of Wim van Donk
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