The Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 6, 1999
December 6, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 15


Political Scientist Wins Grawemeyer Award For Her Book

By Glenn Small
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

A groundbreaking book on the growing role of international nongovernmental groups and their influence on shaping public policy has earned Professor Margaret Keck a prestigious award and a share of $200,000.

Keck, a professor of political science, last week was named winner of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for her book Activists Beyond Borders. She shares the honor and the cash prize with her co-author, Kathryn Sikkink, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

Margaret Keck

The Grawemeyer Award was the second honor garnered by Keck and Sikkink for Activists Beyond Borders--it also won the 1999 Chadwick Alger Prize--and the book was the third by a Hopkins political science professor to be given an award in the last year.

Richard Katz earlier this year was cited by the American Political Science Association as having the "best book in the field published at least 10 years ago" for his book Theory of Parties and Electoral Systems. And William Connolly's book The Terms of Political Discourse was named the 1999 winner of the Benjamin Lippincott Award, which goes to a work of political science theory of lasting importance.

"We were never expecting to win," Keck said of the Grawemeyer Award. "We were stunned."

Keck and Sikkink will split the $200,000 no-strings-attached prize money, given each year by the University of Louisville, which runs the Grawemeyer Awards. Previous winners include Mikhail Gorbachev, who won for a speech he gave to the United Nations.

H. Charles Grawemeyer, a graduate of the University of Louisville, was an industrialist, entrepreneur and philanthropist who created the awards in 1984 with a $9 million endowment. He specified that the awards would not be for lifetime achievement but for original ideas, and ideas that had to be accessible to an educated lay audience.

Grawemeyer saw this award as akin to the Nobel Prize. He is reported to have said, "Peace is a good idea, but it's too narrow. We need justice, too, and well-ordered societies all across the world. I'd like to reward ideas that get us closer to that."

Activists Beyond Borders gives a detailed account of the rise of nongovernmental groups, such as Amnesty International, and how these networks of groups have become important players in shaping public policy.

Kay Treakle, managing director of the Bank Information Center in Washington, a watchdog over development banks like the World Bank, has read the book and believes it is an important work.

"There is a growing literature on the subject," Treakle said. "But I think they're the first to really describe well how these activist networks function and how they grew and effectively responded to global issues."