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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Princess of Asturias Awards


Michael J. Sandel, Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences

American philosopher Michael J. Sandel has been bestowed with the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, as announced today in Oviedo by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award. 


American philosopher Michael J. Sandel has been bestowed with the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, as announced today in Oviedo by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award.

The Jury for the Award –convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation– was chaired by Carmen Iglesias Cano, Countess of Gisbert, and was composed of Paz Battaner Arias, Adela Cortina Orts, Juan Pablo Fusi Aizpurúa, Mauro Guillén Rodríguez, Silvia Iranzo Gutiérrez, Óscar Loureda Lamas, Ricardo Martí Fluxá, Sami Naïr, Emilio Ontiveros Baeza, Isaac Querub Caro, Myriam Seco Álvarez, Fernando Vallespín Oña and Marta Elvira Rojo (as acting secretary).

This candidature was put forward by Fernando Rodríguez Lafuente, member of the Jury for the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature.

Michael J. Sandel (Minnesota, USA, 5th March 1953) graduated from Brandeis University (USA) and, after winning a Rhodes Scholarship, received his doctorate from Balliol College, Oxford (UK), in 1981. A year before obtaining his PhD, Sandel began teaching Political Philosophy at Harvard, where he is currently the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government.

A leading advocate of communitarian theory, a current that emerged in the late 20th century contrary to individualistic and liberal stances, Sandel has managed to extend thinking on this subject to a global audience, posing ethical questions in open, public debates in which he fosters dialogue among the audience. His line of philosophical thinking consists in advocating justice that serves the common good, in which governments can intervene to avoid the excesses of the market economy and social inequalities. His thoughts in this respect have been set out in the following books, translated into 23 languages: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982), Democracy’s Discontent (1996), Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (2005), The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (2007), Justice. What’s the Right Thing to Do? (2009) and What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012). Sandel is also a popular professor, “perhaps the most prominent university professor from the USA”, according to The Washington Post. His classes at Harvard, as well as his talks, are based on the Socratic method of instruction. Their aim is for young people to use reasoning to a greater extent and to avoid behaviour related solely to economic profit and personal interests. He lectures in the Saunders Theatre at Harvard, whose 1,117 seats have to be raffled at the beginning of the year given the demand for the subject taught by Sandel. According to figures provided by the University, more than 15,000 students have attended his lectures on Justice since the early eighties. Twenty-four of his lectures can be viewed and heard on the www.justiceharvard.org website. It is the first Harvard course to be freely accessible via the Internet and TV, and, according to the University, has been viewed by tens of thousands of people worldwide. The British channel BBC Radio 4 filmed his lessons in the series The Public Philosopher –currently updated as The Global Philosopher– in different settings around the world. These include, for instance, a debate on violence against women recorded in India, one on democracy in the British Parliament with actual MPs and the general public, and another on corruption and ethics in daily life in Brazil broadcast by the Globo network that had an audience of nineteen million viewers. He led a debate on Japan’s NHK with students from China, Japan and South Korea about history and moral responsibility. In Seoul (South Korea), he gave a talk in a stadium to 14,000 people. Besides his teaching career, Sandel worked with the US President’s Council on Bioethics between 2005 and 2007.

Michael J. Sandel holds honorary degrees from both Utrecht University (Netherlands) and Brandeis University and is member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Sandel’s teaching career was recognized in 2008 by the American Political Science Association. In 2010, the China Newsweek magazine named him the most influential foreign figure of the year in that country.

As stated in the Regulations, the Princess of Asturias Awards are aimed at rewarding “the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions”. In keeping with these principles, the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences shall be aimed at recognizing “creative and/or research work in the field of history, law, linguistics, teaching, political science, psychology, sociology, ethics, philosophy, geography, economics, demography or anthropology, as well as in the disciplines corresponding to each of these fields.”

This year, a total of 34 candidatures, from 16 different countries, were put forward for the award.

This is the sixth of eight Princess of Asturias Awards to be bestowed this year, now in their thirty-eighth edition. The Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts went to American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities went to Mexican journalist Alma Estela Guillermo Prieto, the Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation was granted to Amref (African Medical and Research Foundation) Health Africa, the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports was jointly bestowed on mountaineers Reinhold Messner (Italy) and Krzysztof Wielicki (Poland) and the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature went to French writer Fred Vargas. The remaining awards will be announced in the coming weeks in the following order: Technical and Scientific Research and Concord.

Each of the Princess of Asturias Awards comprises a Joan Miró sculpture –representing and symbolizing the Awards–, a cash prize of 50,000 euros, a diploma and an insignia. The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by TM The King and Queen of Spain

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