2021 David and Elaine Spitz Prize Winner
CSPT is pleased to announce two winners for the 2021 Prize:
Katrina Forrester, Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Gorvernment and Committee on Social Studies at Harvard University, for her book In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy (Princeton University Press, 2019),
Massimiliano Tomba, Professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California Santa Cruz, for his book Insurgent Universality: An Alternative Legacy of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2019).
The following are the Prize Committee’s commendations for the books:
In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy offers a wide-ranging intellectual history of post-war Anglo-American analytical political philosophy. Superbly researched and written in clear and engaging prose, the book invites the reader on a journey that tracks how liberal analytical political philosophy became institutionalized. Structured around what is often regarded as the most important contribution to postwar political philosophy—Rawls’s theory of justice—the book narrates the emergence and ascendancy of not just a new theory of distributive justice but the development of an entire paradigm that has become dominant in political philosophy. Interpreting the philosophical discourse on justice as a response to concrete political events and conditions, Forrester historicizes justice theory, calling into question the sweeping and ahistorical moral claims that are sometimes made in its name. The book shows that as liberal egalitarianism became mainstreamed, its connection to the political world became more and more tenuous. Along with developing increasingly abstract methods, analytical political philosophy gradually detached itself from political debates and controversies, substituting philosophical abstraction and sophistication for its erstwhile responsiveness to the political world. This depoliticization of liberal egalitarianism went hand in hand with a shift to the right, as libertarian principles and concepts—choice, responsibility, luck—found their way to the heart of analytical political philosophy, both in its liberal egalitarian and in its socialist versions.
Massimiliano Tomba’s Insurgent Universality: An Alternative Legacy of Modernity reorients its readers to new sites of political action and possibility. Displaying admirable ambition, erudition, and originality, the book points us to what Tomba calls the "insurgent universality" of locations and temporalities out of joint with the dominant and normative course of modern history. His historiographical perspective favors a politics not only from below, which is a site of insurgency and residue, but also a politics of the anachronism, wherein time and space are each transformed. These spaces are identified as the 1793 French Sans-culottes assemblies in conversation with Haitian revolts; the institutions of the 1871 Paris Commune; the Soviet Constitution of 1918; and the 1994 Zapatista Manifesto and movement in Chiapas, Mexico. Other locations and points in time could have been chosen, but what these four demonstrate for Tomba is the necessity of linking the social to the political, of thinking the common rather than the individual, of conceiving of a porous plurality rather than an entrenched center as the model for politics, all to displace the rhythm of the nation, the law, and the market. The book is a powerful critique of deference to the liberal democratic state with its focus on the centrality of rights and the law of property. Tomba charts another path-- a creative, common, relational politics rooted simultaneously in imagination and the practice of collective action.
2021 Prize Committee:
Duncan Bell (Chair)
Lori Jo Marso
See past Spitz Prize winners here.