Bernard Harcourt wins the Laing Prize

April 16, 2009
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jacket imageSince 1963, the Press has awarded the annual Gordon J. Laing Prize to the Chicago faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the Press’s list. This year, at a ceremony held earlier this month, the prize honored Bernard Harcourt, the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Professor in Political Science, for his book Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing and Punishing in the Actuarial Age.
Harcourt’s book challenges the growing use of actuarial methods—from random security checks at airports to the use of risk assessment in sentencing—to determine whom law enforcement officials target and punish. The widely perceived success of these methods, he argues, has begun to distort our very conception of just punishment and to obscure alternate visions of social order. You can listen to Harcourt discuss his arguments in greater detail during this podcast of a talk he gave for the Chicago’s Best Ideas series at the University of Chicago Law School.
As the new Chicago Chronicle notes today, Harcourt said of the prize itself that it was “extremely rewarding—and also very humbling—to receive this recognition from the community of scholars who I admire the most. A community that values ideas so intensely and places critical thought above all else.”
Harcourt’s own contributions to this community have been great, and we are proud to have been part of two of them, including Against Prediction and his previous The Language of the Gun. Perhaps Malcolm Gladwell put it best: “Bernard Harcourt has never had an uninteresting thought, or made an argument that does not provoke or engage or delight or enlighten—or do all of those things simultaneously.”

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