Nussbaum Honored For Social Reform

Nussbaum Honored For Social Reform
Law School Staff
Law School Office of Communications
January 5, 2009

Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Law School, Philosophy Department and the Divinity School, has been awarded the 2009 A.SK prize by the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung. The award pays tribute to social system reformers.

The A.SK honors Nussbaum’s work on the foundations of social and global justice, which she has pursued through the study of the “capabilities approach” and the Human Development and Capability Association, of which Nussbaum and Amartya Sen of Harvard University are founding presidents.

Nussbaum has been integral in the development of the “capabilities approach,” which criticizes the traditional focus on quality of life in terms of GNP per capita, which hides huge inequalities within states. Instead it focuses on people’s actual capabilities within the constraints of their societies. She has focused particularly on the relationship between poverty and gender inequality, which is the subject of her books Women and Human Development and Frontiers of Justice.

“Women, the rural poor, and other subordinated groups are usually injured by policies focused on growth alone, since they rarely control the fruits of a nation's general prosperity.” Nussbaum said. “My work on the ‘capabilities approach’ is meant to change the emphasis of the development process so that the first question asked is always, ‘What does this policy mean for the ability of people to live flourishing lives?’”

Along with the recognition for her work, Nussbaum will receive the €100,000 award, with which the A.SK prize is endowed by Angela and Shu Kai Chan, Chinese entrepreneurs with strong ties to Germany.

“As with my Grawemeyer Award in 2002, I intend to give a substantial part of it to the University of Chicago Law School, because that is the place that has supported my work and allowed it to flourish,” said Nussbaum. “After consulting with Dean Levmore, I have decided to give it to a fund to support a new program of student summer internships in developing countries. I also plan to give significant part of it to the HDCA. After that, I will buy a few pairs of shoes.”

Nussbaum will be honored with the award at a ceremony on Feb. 17, 2009 in Berlin, after which she will give a lecture on her work at WZB.

Nussbaum is an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department, a Member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She is the founder and Coordinator of the Center for Comparative Constitutionalism and President of the Human Development and Capability Association.

Martha Nussbaum