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Saskia Sassen

Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2013

Saskia Sassen (The Hague, Netherlands, 1949) and obtained her PhD from the University of Notre Dame (USA) in 1974. She is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Co-Chair of The Committee on Global Thought at the same institution. She is also a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Saskia Sassen is one of the most prestigious international sociologists in fields such as the social, economic and political dimensions of globalization and urban sociology. She is the only woman to appear among the top ten social scientists in the world, as ranked by the Social Science Citation Index of the last decade, which also include Anthony Giddens, Jürgen Habermas, Zygmunt Bauman and Alain Touraine, all Prince of Asturias Award laureates. Her fields of study also encompass phenomena such as immigration, global cities and changes within the liberal state resulting from current transnational conditions. One of her greatest scientific contributions was her concept of the ‘global city’, now accepted and used worldwide. According to Sassen, the control and management of the world economy emanates from these metropolitan areas, in which economic and financial power as well as that stemming from the main telecommunications networks are concentrated. The main centres of world power are likewise found here, where vital information is generated for top-level decision-making. She also analyses the problems that arise in these cities, such as the impoverishment of the middle classes and the difficulties in accessing telecommunications that create social inequalities and social segregation. In another field and contrary to the dominant approach that considers the global and the national to be exclusive realms, Sassen examines how the disassembling of the national realm (territory, authority and rights), in which denationalizing and deglobalizing dynamics have coincided, constitutes a key process to establishing the global realm. In another field and contrary to the traditional approach, Sassen holds that ‘global’ and ‘national’ are not mutually exclusive concepts and that, as a result of globalization, territory, authority and rights do not always coincide with national spaces.

Her books have been translated into 21 languages, the most significant among which are The Mobility of Labor and Capital (1988), The Global City (1991), Cities in a World Economy (1994), Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (2006), A Sociology of Globalization (2007) and Deciphering the Global: Its Scales, Spaces and Subjects (2007). She has likewise published articles in newspapers such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, International Herald Tribune, The Financial Times and Clarín, among others. She completed for UNESCO a 5-year project on sustainable human settlement whose conclusions have been published as one of the volumes of the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (UK).

Advisor to a number of international bodies and for several United Nations projects, she is member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Cities, of the independent organisation Council on Foreign Relations and of the Information Technology and International Cooperation Committee of the Social Science Research Council (USA). In 2007, she won the Distinguished Graduate School Alumnus Award from the University of Notre Dame (USA) and the Future Mentor Award from the University of Chicago. She holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Delft (Netherlands), Poitiers (France), Gent (Belgium) and Warwick (UK) and from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

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