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This year´s Johan Skytte Prize winner announced

2010-04-12

What is the connection between political economy and democracy? Polish-American Adam Przeworski, Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of European Studies at New York University, has been named this year’s winner of The Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science in consideration of his research into this question.

The Johan Skytte Prize, among the most prestigious prizes relating to the field of political science, carries an award of SEK 500,000 and is awarded each year by The Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University to the person who has made the “most valuable contribution to political science.”

Adam Przeworski is being awarded the prize for “essentially raising the scientific standards regarding the analysis of the relations between democracy, capitalism and economic development.” He has devoted his research career to the interplay between economics and politics, particularly the relationship between democracy and capitalism. One of his most significant conclusions is that economic development does not generate democracy but helps it to survive. The reason for this may have to do with the fact that in developed societies, “rocking the system” in response to significant discontent would entail too great a loss in material terms. In poor countries, precisely because people have so little to lose, political protest is not associated with such a high price.

Adam Przeworski stated the following in an interview published in the book Passion, Craft, and Method in Comparative Politics: “If the American presidential election of 2000 had occurred in a country with one-third the income of the United States, it would have ended in a coup d’état or a civil war, as … in Costa Rica in 1948 under very similar circumstances. These outcomes did not occur because people in the United States have too much to lose. They eventually said, ‘Well, we are going to be governed by a government that probably stole the election, has no legitimacy, and that we don’t like. But so what? We will survive. We have our homes, our cars and our TVs. So, why bother? There is too much at stake to go into the street and build barricades or whatever.’”

Adam Przeworski was born in Poland in 1940. He pursued studies at the University of Warsaw, receiving degrees in philosophy and sociology in 1961. In 1966, he completed a doctorate at Northwestern University in the United States. Following a brief return to Poland, he moved permanently to the U.S. in the wake of the 1968 student demonstrations to pursue a new life and career in the latter country. Adam Przeworski has been at New York University since the 1990s, having previously taught at Washington University and the University of Chicago. He will accept the prize at a ceremony in Uppsala on 25 September.

About the Johan Skytte Prize:
In 1622, Johan Skytte, then Vice-Chancellor of the University, established the Johan Skytte chair in Eloquence and Government, which is probably the world’s oldest active professorship in political science. The lands included in the original donation continue to finance research and the Johan Skytte Prize.

Read more about the prize.

Read the entire interview by Gerardo L. Munck from the book Passion, Craft, and Method in Comparative Politics.