Budapest, May 22, 2018 – CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff's tome “The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World” was selected as the winner of the eighth annual Zócalo Public Square Book Prize. Ignatieff will receive the accompanying $5,000 prize and deliver a lecture at an award ceremony today at 7:30 p.m. (PDT) at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles. Zócalo Public Square's mission is to connect people to ideas and to each other by examining essential questions in an accessible, broad-minded, and democratic spirit through events and publications. The event will be live-tweeted from the handle @thepublicsquare.
"At a time when America—and indeed the world—seems more divided than ever, we at Zócalo feel it is critical to draw attention to the many forces that keep us together as well as tear us apart, be they local, regional, national or global," said Gregory Rodriguez, Zócalo founder, editor-in-chief and publisher. "As with our previous Book Prize winners, Michael Ignatieff’s Ordinary Virtues challenges us to think more humanely about our need to deepen human cooperation."
Ignatieff’s book is based on a three-year, six-country research project entitled Global Ethical Dialogues, financed by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs Centennial project. Ignatieff’s research took him to Brazil, the U.S., Japan, Bosnia, Myanmar, and South Africa, where he avoided “elite discourse,” speaking instead with locals in favelas, south central L.A. and other disadvantaged communities. The book was published by Harvard University Press last fall.
Kicking off the first lecture in the second season of CEU's Rethinking Open Society series in September 2017, Ignatieff spoke about what he learned while conducting research for the book. Ordinary virtues obviously serve a purpose, but privilege the local over universal, “us” over “them,” the citizen over the stranger. They are therefore in conflict with the idea of universal moral claims. In the ordinary virtue perspective, tolerance is not an obligation, but a gift. It is not universal, but conditional, granted only if the stranger acknowledges it as a gift and the citizen as the gift giver. This reflected in the tensions today regarding the migration issue – many citizens are not convinced by the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention requiring sovereign nations to provide asylum to refugees, defining it as a human right.
“We have to think more about the integration between citizens and strangers as a civic contract,” Ignatieff said. “We need to find political languages that empower the ordinary virtues, that allow people to speak. We have to empower the ordinary virtues of compassion, generosity, mercy, and hospitality.”
"The Zócalo Book Prize is not only an opportunity to shine a spotlight on an important book, it’s also a chance to acknowledge a set of values that we as a university believe are critical to creating a positive future," said Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University, of which Zócalo Public Square is a creative unit. "We are proud to recognize the valuable work written by Michael Ignatieff and the ongoing effort of Zócalo and the Zócalo Book Prize to encourage social cohesion and the sharing of ideas."
Notes for Editors
Founded in 1991, Central European University is a graduate-level “crossroads” university where faculty and students from more than 100 countries come to engage in interdisciplinary education, pursue advanced scholarship, and address some of society’s most vexing problems.
It is accredited in both the United States and Hungary, and offers English-language Master's and doctoral programs in the social sciences, the humanities, law, management and public policy. Located in the heart of Central Europe -- Budapest, Hungary -- CEU has developed a distinct academic and intellectual focus, combining the comparative study of the region's historical, cultural, and social diversity with a global perspective on good governance, sustainable development and social transformation.
Zócalo's mission is to connect people to ideas and to each other. We do this by publishing and syndicating nonpartisan, ideas journalism and convening smart, live events. Since our founding in 2003, Zócalo has presented 564 events, featuring 2,230 speakers in 23 cities, seven states, and six countries. We now publish over 500 original pieces a year and syndicate to 280 media outlets worldwide, including USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Singapore Straits Times. To expand its reach and impact, Zócalo is now a creative unit of Arizona State University, the largest public university in the U.S., and is committed to innovation in journalism and media.
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