Our tribute to Serge - Lourdes Sola

Lourdes SolaWhen we evoke Serge’s figure it is imperative to conjure up those moments in his biography when his outstanding service to IPSA, to the diffusion of political science as a profession and to the international standing of our organization are brought to centre stage. The written testimony of the colleagues who join us in this tribute take us back to a long list of initiatives, accomplishments, episodes that attest to a lifetime devotion to IPSAs mission. As they cover his trajectory we are introduced to the history of our associative life and well beyond it. We learn about Serge’s role in consolidating a durable interaction with other parent associations, such as the APSA and later on with the ECPR of which he is one of the founding fathers. We are introduced to the highways and byways that marked the internationalization of the French Association and of other National Associations, particularly those of transitional societies in Europe. Starting from his position as a young Secretary General, through the organization of two World Congresses in Paris, to the gestation, edition and recurring re-invention of the Abstracts, we are introduced to the universe of “extended complex interdependence” that  characterizes IPSA presence as a global player in the discipline.

Yet, Serge’s is a devotion of a kind. One in which the disposition and commitment to serve combined with vision, agency and an astonishing capacity to respond to the challenges posed by an ever changing international background. This is what transpires from the written testimony of scholars of such standing as Yves Deloye, Jean Laponce, Jean Leca, Ted Lowi, Max Kaase, John Trent, Bertrand Badie, Leonardo Morlino and Paul Godt. Based on their memories and experience as Serge’s colleagues and partners they offer us a lively picture of IPSA’s trajectory through 63 years. Its capacity for networking, for reaching out for colleagues in the developing world and in transitional societies seems inseparable from Serge’s presence and agency as editor and later on as co-editor of the Abstracts. His astonishing fluency in so many languages, his ability to mobilize material and political resources at service of the Abstracts have been key assets for the development of IPSA’s networking capabilities and finances.

It is against this backdrop that I want to set my own experience of the nine years of social and professional intercourse with Serge – in the EC and in particular as members of the Committee of Organization and Procedures, the COP. The portrayal we get from the testimony of long-standing friends and colleagues help explaining the feelings he inspired in me and in other EC members throughout. In a nutshell: we felt – and I feel when we meet - that a lifetime of wisdom is waiting to be poured. Yet, what makes this experience worthy of admiration and deference is that this wisdom is poured on demand only. Or when the situation seems to get out of hand. This is one of the sources of his moral authority, I guess. There are others, of course, not the least the fact that his moral strength was shaped by and put to test in so many historical crossroads -  from Vichy in his early childhood to the crossroad where his beloved Europe finds itself today.

Yet, when we look at Serge’s legacy we must think of the future ahead of us, specially to the task of “keeping up the flame” and passing it on to the next generations. Since this tribute to Serge takes place in Don Quixote’s country, permit me to recall – and to paraphrase - one of the highest (if ironical) moments of realistic assessment of human nature by that hero... Pointing out to Sancho Panza what academic achievement and standing can achieve and what it cannot, he says: “Lo que la naturaleza no da, Salamanca no puede proveer” (What nature does not provide, Salamanca cannot grant). In this spirit, we should not expect that Serge’s exemplary trajectory and  his commitment to IPSA, anchored as it is in his personal ethics and moral strength, be reproduced.

What we can do in order to keep up the flame, then? To my view it is to make sure that we follow a triple task, condensed in what I call the 3 R: recruit the best; reach out for the disperse communities of political scientists in statu nascendi in the developing world; and reform ourselves as a global institution whenever  needed.

As a token of this commitment, and as chair of the Committee of Organization, Procedures and Awards (COPA), I will propose to the EC the creation of a Serge Hurtig Award, with a selection committee composed of past presidents. 

I believe that these are initiatives that will ensure a degree of historical continuity while recruiting the ones best equipped to follow Serge’s steps.


Lourdes Sola
University of São Paulo
IPSA President 2006-2009
Chair of the IPSA Committee of Organization, Procedures and Awards (COPA)