Ulrich Becker#

Laudatio by Hans F. Zacher#

Ulrich Becker’s scientific achievement is expressed in two dimensions: in his comprehensive work in the field of public law (constitutional law, administrative law) and in his more specific work in the field of social law.

Social law is a young field of law. Social policy has been a venture of the European modern age. Already in earlier history social inequality resulted in assistance given to the poor and those in need. This assistance, however, did not target the curse of inequality, but merely the excruciating effects of it. Since the Enlightenment- and also stimulated by the transformation from the feudal, status-based economy (defined by lineage and inheritage) to modern industrialised monetary economy - the extremely unequal conditions as such had been criticised. "Labour problems” became the prototype. Thus, the 19th century saw first notions of social protection develop through labour law, as well as first concepts of social security through social insurance law. These first approaches further developed by way of countless new additions and ramifications until the turn of the 2lst century. Social benefits law as such did not only become more substantial. It also increasingly infused societal and political relations. Long gone are therefore the days when the legal order of family life was an exclusive matter of family law in the classical sense; it is rather, and in no lesser degree, a matter of social benefits law. Moreover, the current economic crisis gives impressive evidence of the complex and great extent to which economic conditions and developments are connected with social benefits systems. These issues primarily take on a national character, with the main responsibility to find solutions lying with national law. Yet, European integration and globalisation expressly illustrate that transnational, supranational and international relations and systems bear no lesser significance. Thus, the scholarship of social law has, in no lesser way than political and legal practice, been continuously faced with new and always fundamental challenges since the middle of the 20th century.

Ulrich Becker has delved into all relevant contexts of this subject matter producing compelling research work. An essential feature in this regard has been the dialectic between concrete studies that are concentrated on certain systems of regulation and the more general advance towards a theory of social law. Naturally, he has dedicated significant research work to national German law. Yet, since it has for long been impossible to understand, configure and apply national law without the examination and acknowledgement of its relevance to the national, transnational, continental and global reality, as well as to foreign, supranational and international law, he has been covering foreign law in its most diverse forms just as diligently as comparing its national legal systems and studying the supranational and international order. Sure, for European countries it is the European development that is of greatest significance. It is just as important to include in the research the linking of the various levels of territorial entities of the world and its societies as to include the overall legal order. A key element in this regard is the topic of constitutional law in relation to "normal" law (produced by parliament through its general procedures). Another important example taken up by Ulrich Becker is tax law. However, non-legal disciplines, too, are indispensable for successful research. In this context, Ulrich Becker has, above all, focused on the political and economic sciences, as well as on historical disciplines.

Urlich Becker's scientific productivity is illustrated, inter alia, by l2 monographs, 20 publications edited by him, l4 essays, and annotations to the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany as well as to the Treaty on the Foundation of the European Community. Eight scientific series and journals are co-edited by him.
His very extensive and highly respected research gained him an outstanding reputation already early in his life and thus convinced the Max Planck Society to entrust Professor Becker with the directorate of its Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law. He has since demonstrated his excellence in making use of this outstanding instrument in order to find applicable solutions to the crucial questions posed by social law — or at least to pave the way for valid answers.

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