News
12 may 2021

Remembering Ronald Inglehart, the Founding President of the World Values Survey Association

WVSA is deeply saddened by the passing of Ronald Inglehart on May 8th, 2021. Ron was one of the greatest Political Scientists of our contemporary world, teacher to many, a true mastermind and the Founder of the World Values Survey - one of his many outstanding legacies. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Ronald F. Inglehart (1934-2021)

On May 8th, 2021, the founder of the World Values Survey, Ronald F. Inglehart, passed away after a long illness. This is a tremendous loss to the WVS community and, well beyond this, to intellectual life around the world. Our sincere condolences go to his family and close ones.

Born on 5 September 1934, Ron was an American political scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. Recognized by many awards, he was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Political and Social Science, as well as winner of the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, the equivalent of the Nobel prize in political science. Inglehart received honorary degrees from Uppsala University in Sweden, the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, Leuphana University in Lueneburg, Germany.

He was a visiting professor or visiting scholar in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Nigeria and New Zealand, and served as a consultant to the U.S. State Department and the European Union. The Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR) that he founded in Russia in 2010 bears his name today. He was the 2014 recipient of WAPOR’s highest honor, the Helen Dinerman Award, for his significant contributions to survey research methodology, specifically in the area of cross-cultural research.

One of the world’s most cited political scientists, Inglehart published over 400 peer-reviewed articles and authored or coauthored fourteen books during his career. His books have been translated into many languages, and his theories have been analyzed and studied in most global and regional contexts. He is now the most widely cited scholar in political science in the world, according to Google Scholar.

Ron Inglehart’s contribution to academia has been stellar. In his landmark work, The Silent Revolution (1977), Ronald Inglehart theorized and demonstrated the motivation driving the rise of cultural shifts and turbulent politics in the mid-1960s and early-1970s in Western Europe and North America. He identified generational shifts in experiences of existential security and cognitive mobilization as the social forces fuelling the rise of what he conceptualized as ‘post-material’ values, subsequently expanded into the broader concept of ‘self-expression values’. He theorized that first phase of societal modernization--the transition from agrarian to industrial society-- strengthens ‘secular-rational values,’ but a distinctive set of self-expression values emerge in the second phase of modernization: the transition from industrial to post-industrial society. Expanding this theory to apply to diverse issues such as religiosity and secularization, processes of democratization, issues of sex roles and gender equality, and the rise of authoritarian populism, in a series of major publications Inglehart enriched the political culture field with concepts and evidence that greatly enhanced our understanding of value change.

Building upon these social theories, Inglehart’s lifetime work was to provide an evidence base for the study of cultural differences and cultural change which gradually evolved in scope and coverage. At the beginning of his career, cross-national political culture research had systematic survey data for no more than a handful of countries. Inspired by the ambition to improve this situation, Inglehart helped develop the Eurobarometer surveys, contributed to the European Values Study, and founded the World Values Surveys. From the early-1980s onwards, the WVS gradually evolved to become the most encompassing, widely cited, and comprehensive survey database to monitor social and cultural change in more than 100 societies around the globe. Hence, Inglehart developed the concepts and infrastructure for a major field of comparative politics. The development of these surveys has enabled a generation of scholars to do research in areas where no one had gone before. Both his intellectual and infrastructural contributions are unmatched. His work is one of the examples of scientific dedication throughout a lifetime. 

Ron was not only a valued scholar but on a personal basis he also was a most empathetic companion and friend who always acted with the best of intentions. "He was not only a prolific and outstanding leading scholar in political science, but also the best academic team-builder and team-leader I had ever the pleasure to meet", says Christian Haerpfer, the President of the WVSA. "For us, he was a mentor, a founding father, and the best of friends", says Alejandro Moreno, the Vice-President and Treasurer of the WVSA.

"Ron was my mentor. Ron was in each and every aspect a role model: as a thinker, researcher, teacher, supervisor, mentor, companion, friend, father, husband — in short as a human being. We lose a great thinker and beautiful mind", says Chris Welzel, the Vice-President of the WVSA. Member of the WVSA Executive Committee Pippa Norris remembers Inglehart as “a pioneer in expounding bold conjectures about social change which captured the contemporary zeitgeist and then also gathering large-scale cross-national survey data monitoring attitudes, values, and behaviors, to test the comparative evidence for key claims in these social theories”.

"Long live his legacy. Grateful for his profound support and influence in developing comparative survey research in the world beyond WVS", says Marta Lagos, Member of the WVSA Executive Committee. "A legendary figure in the true sense of the word and a source of inspiration to all of us his colleagues. But above all, such a kind-hearted, caring friend for me", says Yilmaz Esmer, Vice-Chair of the Scientific Committee. "What a towering giant he was. One of very few scholars who truly impacted our discipline for the better and forever. I will miss our discussions and friendship", says Birol Yesilada, the WVS PI for Cyprus. 

Ron was inspirational intellectually, energetic as a leader, inexhaustibly supportive as a mentor—and warm and lovable as a person. We will miss him! 

 

In loving memory, from the Members of the World Values Survey Association 


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