Unexpectedly, on 24 October 2022, Bas van der Horst, Managing Editor of this journal since 2017, passed away. During one of his traditional visits to one of the northern Wadden Islands in Holland in September, he was overwhelmed by tiredness. Back in Amsterdam, it soon became clear that he had only a few weeks to live. Bas died peacefully under the intense cloak of the love of his wife and children. This existential bombshell and the short time left to Bas were extremely hard to negotiate. It kept him from saying farewell to many friends and colleagues. As colleagues, “we couldn’t say goodbye, sealed with a kiss.”
Bas, for the International Journal of Social Quality, was much more than a “Managing Editor.” He upgraded our journal in many ways. He gave the website of the International Association on Social Quality a new color scheme and visual significance. With expressive images, he emphasized the necessity of “bridging” between people. Technically and in substance, he made indispensable contributions to the development of the huge list of the IJSQ’s relationships. He contributed to the transformation of the peer-review system into a supportive process for authors who lacked the expertise to present arguments on an international platform such as the journal. Based on these great personal contributions, a productive collegial relationship was built with the Berghahn Journals team. Such sensitive and complicated processes only take shape through sympathy, perseverance, and readiness to mutually accept trial and error.
From deeply rooted personal conviction, in his own inimitable and humble way, Bas strove to enhance the global dialogue about how to strengthen the normative principles of social quality: social justice, human solidarity, equal value, human dignity, and eco-equilibrium. The Russian invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine in February 2022 was, for Bas, unbearable, echoing as it did what had happened in Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan.
Bas had a long career at ARTIS, the Amsterdam zoo. The Planetarium there was his great passion. Among many other things, he invested hugely in its internal and external digital communication and its educational aspects. He taught children passionately about the current “state of the art” of what we know about the origins and processes of the universe, stars, planets, and black holes. Humans, he argued, should be aware and take due account of these processes in the universe when acting on our “tiny planet.” After his retirement, he continued his work for ARTIS as a volunteer. Thankfully, he was also able to create time to contribute to improving communicative processes regarding the social quality theory and approach.
Bas was substantially involved in social quality issues. He was fascinated by the fundamental assumption that “the social” should be conceived of as the outcome of the dialectic between processes of self-realization of people and processes resulting in the formation of collectives. The same held true for judging the meaning of the outcomes through the five normative principles. For him, this approach allowed for an essential critique of the neoliberal paradigm and contemporary interpretations of Marxism. As he taught young people, for him, it was “evidence sui generis” that the social quality of people’s daily lives is undermined when interventions are at odds with “natural processes.” He strongly believed in the necessity of interdisciplinarity in theory and practice for contributing to the enhancement of the “overall sustainability” of (existence on) the Earth.
In his private life, he was a gentle and modest person who felt especially happy when surrounded by nature. He always found the latter while staying in his simple weekend house at the edge of the woods or camping on the Wadden Islands, overlooking the infinite sea. He always had a passion for music and poetry. He believed that the future of his grandchild depended on strengthening social justice and restoring the balance between nature and the human species. All of this was present in his backpack, and it came to expression in his being our journal’s “Managing Editor.” The editors of the journal and the Berghahn team are experiencing the loss of Bas with great sadness, but we all know that his spirit lives on in the work of social quality and its realization.
By Laurent J. G. van der Maesen, Harry G. J. Nijhuis, and Alan Walker,
Amsterdam, The Hague, Sheffield.