Chris Uggen's Blog: stockholm prize in criminology

Sunday, August 14, 2005

stockholm prize in criminology

The big news at the closing of the World Criminology Congress was the Swedish Minister of Justice's announcement of a new international award. The Stockholm Prize in Criminology will be awarded for outstanding achievements in criminological research or for the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights. I know that big awards can sometimes be divisive but I see this as a terrific development for the social scientific study of crime.

Each time I hear the Nobel announcements, I think an award for sociology or the study of social life more generally is long overdue. Seeing James Heckman awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for "development of theory and methods for analyzing selective samples" or Toni Morrison awarded a literature prize for her "visionary force and poetic import" makes me think of the contributions of sociologists worthy of similar recognition. So, who would you nominate for the new criminology prize? Or, for a (yet to be developed) sociology prize?

11 Comments:

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Penn State Punk said...

You baby.

 
At 10:52 AM, Anonymous sarah said...

I saw that coming...

 
At 12:21 PM, Anonymous chris said...

Yeah, right. I was thinking along the lines of a James Coleman or Talcott Parsons or Rob Sampson. Give yourself a few years, Punk (and Sarah), and I'm sure you'll be better candidates than me. Esp. once your diss hits the streets...

 
At 4:03 PM, Anonymous valerio said...

well, my pick would include anthony giddens, harold garfinkel, stuart hall, jean baudrillard, jurgen habermas, alain touraine, and immanuel wallerstein. unfortunately, there are no women in the list, but if i had to include some, i guess authors like judith butler and gayatri spivak. a bit of a weird mixture, but those are the names that come to mind, although some of them are not necessarily referred to as sociologists. anyhow, it really sucks that there is no nobel for sociology. and please put your favorites on, as i'm really interested in seeing your list.

 
At 6:22 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

Nice list! You've identified people with both an outstanding body of work and some who had a few big honking ideas that changed everything. My list would skew a bit more structural/functional (e.g., Merton gets a prize), but I wouldn't challenge any of your picks. Merton could have written a nice soc of science piece about how all the Nobel sociology awards go to the already-famous rather than the true innovators.

 
At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think there are enough sociologists who are worthy of an award for extraordinary, field-altering ideas, let alone ideas that alter society. Sociology could sustain a Nobel for 5, maybe 10 years, and then the committee would have to start lowering its standards. Lest you think I'm picking needlessly on sociology, (a) I am myself a (reasonably content) sociologist, and (b) I also don't think there are enough good economists out there to sustain the Econ prize.

As an aside, my visit to the Nobel museum led me to believe I'm not the only one who thinks this about the Econ prize. I read or watched virtually every display in the museum (it's not large) and could count on three fingers the number of references to the Econ prize or to prize winners. And it wasn't just because tangible objects are scarcer in econ than in, say, physics. The lack of objects didn't seem to trouble the literature prize, and many of the displays were of the sort that didn't require objects.

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Valerio said...

chris, i would agree that merton deserves a place there, parsons as well, but i was listing only those who are still alive. and i'm glad you noticed the criteria that involved, academically speaking, revolutionary ideas (e.g. garfinkel), and those who contributed with an extraordinary body of work, and depth of analysis (e.g. touraine). but, there is one thing that comes to mind when looking at the list: the lack of non-western european authors. so, i would like to see which non-west authors would you recommend? it is interesting to think about it because it gives you a sense of one’s knowledge (or lack of it) of authors from different national backgrounds.

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

Anonymous: You've nailed me on the implicit assumption of my argument (that the economics prize is a good model). I guess that the standard might go from "society altering" to "field altering" to "excellent work in the field." What is the primary criterion for the literature prize? It seems to recognize a great diversity of work.

Valerio: You've nailed me on my own western (American, really) training and biases. Fei Xiaotong? Paulo Freire? Does non-western include those trained in the west? If the committee followed the procedures of, say, the literature prize, I suspect that an exciting and diverse group of scholars would emerge and their work would find larger audiences. Perhaps this would help solve the supply-side problem identified by Anonymous.

 
At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Valerio said...

chris, you have a point there. if the nobel prize committee would have similar preferences as the one for literature, than we would see a diversity of recipients (in terms of nationality), but many of them, probably, would be trained in the west. so, a conclusion could be that a nobel prize for sociology would be a good thing because it would focus our attention to good scholarship outside the west (especially in terms of language- english, french, and german) that could become available worldwide.

anon's argument that "Sociology could sustain a Nobel for 5, maybe 10 years, and then the committee would have to start lowering its standards", seems plausible to an extent. but, then again, it depends what is your criteria, as chris noted. nevertheless, i think there would be enough good scholars judging by the hard "society altering" and "field altering" criteria, although it would be easier to find candidates according to the "diversity of work" criteria.

 
At 10:37 AM, Anonymous eszter said...

Not to dismiss the value of the Econ prize, I do want to mention that the Econ prize is not an original "real" Nobel prize. It was instituted several decades after the original prizes and is not awarded by the Nobel Foundation, rather by the Bank of Sweden in memory of Alfred Nobel.

My father published a book on the Nobel Prize (although only focusing on the science prizes) that may be of interest to those intrigued by this topic. The book is based on interviews with about 70 Nobel laureates and a similar number of famous scientists who did not win the prize. It's an interesting look at what goes into winning the prize.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

Eszter, The book looks cool. The crim prize is even farther removed from the Nobel Foundation, but it will be awarded in stockholm, with swedish ministry of justice support, so it parallels the Nobel on some dimensions.

 

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