In Memoriam

Norbert Lechner, Chilean Social Scientist

by | Apr 22, 2004

We, the members of the social science community, mourn the profound loss of Norbert Lechner, a renowned Chilean social scientist. Born in Germany in 1939, Lechner visited Chile as a young political science doctoral student from the University of Freiburg, and there he remained. Last year, in an official ceremony, the Chilean Senate awarded honorary Chilean citizenship to Lechner.

Beginning in 1974 and for almost a quarter-of-a-century, Lechner was a member of the faculty of the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Chile. He was director of FLACSO-Chile from 1988-1994 and was a visiting professor of FLACSO-Mexico from 1994-1997. Lechner then returned to Chile to become a senior analyst at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Lechner made an extraordinary intellectual contribution to some of the most important debates in contemporary Latin American politics. His intellectual legacy includes path-breaking conceptualizations of the relationships between subjectivity and politics, politics and temporality, theories of the state and theories of state-market relationships. In recent years, Lechner focused intensively on the questions of the pervasive insecurity and alienation from politics, relating such trends to disaffection and a lack of collective identity. Much of his work highlights the deficits in the processes of Latin American transition and democratization, as well as the constant need to reflect deeply about politics and the construction of community as a basis for social development.

Among Lechner’s principal books is Sombre del mañana, published in 2003, for which Lechner received the Municipality of Santiago prize. One of Lechner’s books of greatest influence is Los patios interiores de la democracia, published in 1988. Other works include La conflictiva y nunca acabada construcción del orden deseado and Qué significa hacer política? During the Chilean transition period, Lechner contributed Capitalismo, democracia y reformas, published in 1991.

Lechner’s untimely death from cancer is a profound loss. We will miss his collaborative scholarly spirit, and will continue to cherish his legacy.

Spring 2004Volume III, Number 3

Francisco Rojas,  FLACSO Chile prepared this statement, translated by Katherine Hite, Vassar College.

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