What do these guys have in common: Charles Tilly and Dani Rodrik? Okay, maybe a lot of things, but what's the answer I'm looking for? Here's a hint: throw in a third name--A. O. Hirschman? Answer: Tilly and Rodrik are the first two winners of the Hirschman Prize, awarded by the Social Science Research Council (link). But it's more than that: the extra fillip is that I really can't think of a major award where the award and the recipients have so much in common--in common, that is, not so much in terms of content as of style. They're all original and creative, but so are a lot of other people. What's interesting about these three is that they seem to have an extraordinary openness to possibilities from more or less obvious ideas that don't seem to have been obvious (until they wrote) to anyone else--a kind of Mozartean ease in making the hitherto unnoticed appear inevitable. No point in detailing the entire record, but let me commend one of the best economics books I ever read--Hirschman's Exit, Voice and Loyalty; and one of the best books about politics--Tilly's Coercion, Capital and European States (1992); and about the best economics book I've read in the past year-Rodrik's One Economics, Many Recipes (2007).
The SSRC blurb on Hirschman says he wrote "some of the most provocative books in the social sciences, on recurring themes of economic development, political democracy, and the surprising relationships between the two" (link). That's a pretty good capsule summary of all three.
H/T: Crooked Timber.
Aftethought: Oh, and here's a nominee for next year (link).