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Harvard Law Professor Awarded Holberg Prize
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Cass Sustein

Summary: Harvard Law Professor Cass R. Sunstein has won the prestigious Holberg Prize.

The Holberg Prize, a Norwegian award established in 2003, is given annually to a someone who makes significant contributions to the arts and humanities, law, theology, or the social sciences. A Harvard Law School Professor is the latest recipient of the esteemed award.


Professor Cass. R Sunstein is a researcher of political theory and behavioral science. His work specifically looks at the intersection of the two fields. He received notification on March 14 that he had won the award, to his surprise and gratification. He told The Harvard Crimson, “It felt like squash had been made an Olympic sport, and I had been informed that I made the team. Meaning, very surprising and slightly surreal – and a great honor.”

The Holberg Prize comes with a rather large financial award of 6 million Norwegian kroner or $765,000. Sunstein will attend the ceremony on June 6 at Norway’s University of Bergen where he will accept the price and money. The Norwegian government puts up the money, budgeted into the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research department.

The Holberg decision committee examined the range and depth of Sunstein’s work, noting his research as “wide-ranging, original, prolific, and highly influential.” Some of Sunstein’s contributions include 48 books and hundreds of scholarly articles. One of his acclaimed pieces is the New York Times bestseller “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness.”

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Sunstein believes his work “trying to deepen the foundations of democratic theory” helped him win. He credits many for helping him get where he is with his academic work. Sunstein said, “When anyone gets a prize, the number of teachers and students and collaborators are friends who are co-recipients is pretty high.”

One of Sunstein’s former teachers, Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe, said in an email that Sunstein “is a national treasure.” He added, “His breadth and depth of insight across disciplines is unparalleled, as is his productivity. That he credits me as his mentor is humbling but enormously gratifying.”

Sunstein previously worked at the University of Chicago and was a member of President Barack Obama’s review group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies in 2013.

His current work is on a book on the #MeToo movement and how social norms will affect one’s willingness to stand up for themselves by speaking out.

Previous winners include Onora O’Neill, a British philosopher; Stephen Greenblatt, a Harvard Professor of the Humanities and General Editor of The Norton Shakespeare; Marina Warner, a British historian, writer and mythologist; Michael Cook, a British historian and Islamic history scholar; Bruno Latour, a French anthropologist and sociologist; and Manuel Castells, a Spanish sociologist.

Are schools more prestigious when their professors receive awards? Would you be willing to pay more to go to a school that has professors receiving prestigious awards? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about Harvard Law School, read these articles:




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