Beetham came to Leeds from the University of Manchester
in April 1980, taking up the Professorship of Politics
in succession to Ralph Miliband. Professor Beetham had
already established himself as the leading British authority
on the thought of Max Weber through the publication in
1974 of his book Max Weber and the Theory of Modern
Politics. This was rapidly followed by seminal studies
of élite theory, focusing on the work of Robert
Michels, which together with his work on Weber gained
him an international reputation as a scholar of European
social and political theory. Once at Leeds, he consolidated
his position as a leading political theorist with studies
of Marxist theories and analyses of fascism, and some
years later by his book on The Legitimation of Power.
the course of his time at Leeds, David Beetham has become
one of the best-known and most distinguished experts in
the field of democratic theory and practice. He has acted
as consultant on democracy to Unesco, the Council of Europe,
and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. His study Introducing
Democracy, 80 Questions and Answers (jointly authored
with Professor Kevin Boyle of Essex University) was commissioned
by Unesco and published world-wide in many languages.
Closer to home, he is the initiator of the 'democratic
audit', described in his own words as 'the simple but
ambitious project of assessing the state of democracy
in a single country'. This 'democratic audit' has been
applied to assess the extent, and limits, of democracy
in the United Kingdom, and gave rise to the massive study
Political Power and Democratic Control in Britain,
jointly written with Stuart Weir and published in 1999.
David Beetham's innovative work on democratic audit and
democracy assessment gained international recognition
with his appointment as Director of Research for the Stockholm-based
IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral
Assessment). In that capacity, he has travelled throughout
the world extending the application of the democratic
audit to a wide range of countries, and acting as consultant
on questions of good governance and democracy assessment.
There are very few political scientists whose theoretical
work has achieved such immediate practical implementation
and global recognition. In addition he is recognised as
a leading scholar of human rights, with a focus on economic
and social rights, editing and contributing to an important
collection of papers on politics and human rights.
Beetham has not hesitated to show his commitment to democracy
and egalitarianism in spheres outside the University.
He has been a political activist, a parliamentary candidate,
and an involved member of peace movements and protests
against nuclear weapons. Within the University, he served
for several years as head of department, accessible and
open to all his colleagues, and unfailingly supportive
and encouraging. He was a founder member and Director
of the Leeds University Centre for Democratisation Studies.
He has also served the wider University community by his
membership of numerous chair and readership committees.
There is no doubt that his scholarly work will continue
in his retirement, along with his love of vigorous mountain
walking and scrambling in areas as diverse as the Italian
Dolomites and the Scottish 'Monroes'. We wish him a speedy
recovery from his recent ill-health and express appreciation
of a truly distinguished and outstanding career.