Study on the pioneers of the participation society awarded De la Court Prize for unpaid research

3 December 2014


The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has awarded the 2015 De la Court Prize to Marcel Spierts for his PhD thesis De stille krachten van de verzorgingsstaat, an account of the turbulent history of socio-cultural occupations in the Netherlands after the Second World War. The prize, EUR 7500, is awarded for unpaid, independent research.

In his thesis, Spierts describes the rise of socio-cultural occupations in post-war Netherlands, for example youth workers, community organisers and educational workers. He shows how the political and cultural elite expected these new professionals to make a major contribution to the modernisation of society and to personal development, how their work was radicalised in the 1960s and 1970s, and how disillusionment and budget cuts followed in subsequent decades. However, Spierts also shows that socio-cultural professionals have played an indispensable role in enticing people to contribute to the participation society. That means that these ‘participation pioneers’ are once more at the heart of social change. In the jury’s view, Marcel Spierts’ investigation of this socially relevant and fascinating subject has demonstrated convincingly why the socio-cultural occupations are important.

Marcel Spierts (born 1957) is a consultant who helps social work, educational and cultural organisations understand the role of social and public professionals and make better use of their expertise. He studied andragogy at the University of Amsterdam and was an instructor and researcher at universities of applied sciences in The Hague and Amsterdam. In early 2014 he received his PhD from the University of Amsterdam for his thesis De stille krachten van de verzorgingsstaat. De precaire professionalisering van de sociaal-culturele beroepen [Silent forces of the welfare state. The precarious professionalization of the socio-cultural occupations]. A commercial edition has been published by Van Gennep.

The awards ceremony takes place on Monday 9 February 2015 at the Trippenhuis Building in Amsterdam.

The De la Court Prize is awarded every other year for scholarly research in the arts and social sciences that has been conducted independently and without financial reward. The Academy awards the prize in recognition of individuals who have performed outstanding scholarly work in their own time and with their own funds.