Προσφώνηση στην εκδήλωση του Πανεπιστημίου Πελοποννήσου προς τιμήν του καθηγητή Maurizio Ferrera (Κόρινθος 23 Μαΐου 2014)
Dear friends, dear students, dear colleagues
It was with great pleasure that I accepted your University’s invitation to say a few words before the keynote speech by Maurizio Ferrera, our guest of honour today.
On such occasions, one tends to exaggerate the achievements of one’s guest. But I assure you, this is not what I am about to do. All I will do is briefly explain why I believe our guest today is a leading light in political science, and in welfare state research; then explain why he and his work matter to me personally.
The theme which has marked Professor Ferrera’s distinguished career is the analysis of the way two historic processes (in his words: ‘two precious legacies of the twentieth century’) interact with each other. On the one hand, welfare state building in Europe’s nation states; on the other hand, European integration. The pressures and opportunities presented to European welfare states, in the context of the long and winding road the EU has taken over the last half century, have been the subject of numerous works of his.
I will only mention a few: his 1996 article in Journal of European Social Policy on the Southern Model of welfare; his 2000 report (with Anton Hemerijck and Martin Rhodes) for the Portuguese Presidency of the EU on the future of Social Europe; his 2004 Amsterdam UP book (with Elisabetta Gualmini) on the European rescue of the Italian welfare state; his 2005 Oxford UP book on the boundaries of welfare; his 2008 paper in West European Politics on the ‘golden achievements and silver prospects’ of the European welfare state; his 2009 paper in the Journal of Common Market Studies on the potential for ‘virtuous nesting’ of the two historic processes I mentioned earlier, the development of national welfare states and European integration.
These works, and numerous others, have made us all wiser and more knowledgeable, and also (deservedly) made Maurizio Ferrera’s name in the profession – but also beyond it. This is easily seen in the invitations to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and university seminars throughout the world, to be part of high-level expert committees, at the national and European Union level, to address national assemblies (most recently, the Danish Parliament), or to receive honours (such as the one bestowed on him by the President of the Italian Republic in 2012). And although it is rare for university professors to become household names (the current case of Thomas Piketty being the exception confirming the rule), Maurizio Ferrera comes close, among else through his frequent press articles and his column in the Corriere della Sera daily.
Before I give the floor to our guest of honour, let me add a personal touch. I met Maurizio Ferrera in the mid-1990s, shortly after my return from London. At the time, I was growing disillusioned with my then area of specialization – health economics. My previous work in health econometrics and cost-benefit analysis had left me dissatisfied. I dreaded the prospect of a lifetime crunching numbers, while all around me, in Greek health care, raged a rather undignified battle for scarce resources, amidst pervasive inefficiency, unprofessional practices, and outright corruption – all fascinating, albeit dispiriting stuff. It was then that a Greek friend, who had taken out a subscription to Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, passed me a photocopy of an article by someone called Maurizio Ferrera: ‘Il modello sud-europeo di welfare state’ (Exhibit A).
It would only be a slight exaggeration for me to say that that was my personal Road to Damascus. In any case, the article’s impact on me was huge: here was someone writing with style, and with scientific rigour we arrogant economists hardly suspected in our fellow social scientists, on issues that mattered greatly to me (the welfare state, Europe, Greece compared to Italy and Spain and Portugal), in a piece of work that bursted with ideas, including a number of puzzles for others to explore, if they so wished.
On my next visit to Milan, my second hometown, I wrote him a letter (we wrote letters those days). He replied, he kindly agreed to meet me (he must have been curious), we had a lengthy discussion, and he greeted me farewell with a gift of the English version of his article (Exhibit B, then forthcoming in JESP, cited in almost 2,000 academic works since then). To my amazement, we kept in touch ever since.
I would hate to imply that what happened next was his fault. But it is certainly true that meeting Maurizio Ferrera, and reading his work, was central to my decision to make the analysis of social policy my main concern. It was for me a happy decision, and I stuck to it for almost twenty years. I very much doubt he realizes how much I owe this to him – to his work, and to his person.
Dear Maurizio, the floor is yours.