What other political scientists deserve the Nobel?

Yesterday the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom for their work on what economists call "governance" and what political scientists call "politics" (and what Larry David would call "unwritten law").  In awarding the prize to one economist (Williamson) and ...

Yesterday the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom for their work on what economists call "governance" and what political scientists call "politics" (and what Larry David would call "unwritten law").  In awarding the prize to one economist (Williamson) and one political scientist (Ostrom), the Nobel committee awarded exemplars in the study of political economy.

Lots of (positive) blog reactions to this Nobel.  Henry Farrell does note a trenchant irony: 

It is also worth pointing out in passing (as an email correspondent has brought to my attention) that she has received roughly a dozen grants under the NSF program that Senator Tom Coburn wants to abolish. Tom Coburn vs. the Nobel committee as a judge of scholarly quality – you decide.

Yesterday the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom for their work on what economists call "governance" and what political scientists call "politics" (and what Larry David would call "unwritten law").  In awarding the prize to one economist (Williamson) and one political scientist (Ostrom), the Nobel committee awarded exemplars in the study of political economy.

Lots of (positive) blog reactions to this Nobel.  Henry Farrell does note a trenchant irony: 

It is also worth pointing out in passing (as an email correspondent has brought to my attention) that she has received roughly a dozen grants under the NSF program that Senator Tom Coburn wants to abolish. Tom Coburn vs. the Nobel committee as a judge of scholarly quality – you decide.

And for those who would argue that Obama’s Peace Prize makes that decision an easy call for Coburn, bear in mind that the two awards are given by different committees.   

Steve Leavitt has an economist’s take

What’s interesting is that in the ensuing 15 years, it seems to me that economists have talked less and less about Williamson’s research, at least in the circles in which I run. I suspect most assistant professors of economics have barely heard of him. Yet I suspect the older generation of economists will applaud this choice….

The reaction of the economics community to Elinor Ostrom’s prize will likely be quite different. The reason? If you had done a poll of academic economists yesterday and asked who Elinor Ostrom was, or what she worked on, I doubt that more than one in five economists could have given you an answer. I personally would have failed the test….

This award demonstrates, in a way that no previous prize has, that the prize is moving toward a Nobel in Social Science, not a Nobel in economics.

I think Leavitt is overstating the case a little.  Looking at the last 15 years’ worth of winners, I see a few winners who are more appreciated outside of economics than inside the profession (Amartya Sen, Daniel Kahneman, Thomas Schelling).  More of them, however, easily fall within the boundaries of mainstream economics (Lucas, Phelps, Hurwicz, Meyerson, Kydland, Prescott, Heckman, Merton, Scholes, Krugman, etc.) 

Nevertheless, Leavitt’s conjecture raises four dandy questions for readers of this blog: 

  1. Who will be the next political scientist to win this Nobel? 
  2. Who should be the next political scientist to win this Nobel?
  3. Who will be the next international relations scholar to win this Nobel?
  4. Who should be the next international relations scholar to win this Nobel?

Fire away, readers! 

[And what are your answers to these questions?–ed.  They are closely guarded secrets that will be revealed at an appropriate time.]

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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