Hungarian Economist Janos Kornai to Receive CEU Open Society Prize

Budapest, June 14 2018 –Central European University is awarding its highest honor, the Open Society Prize, to the distinguished Hungarian economist Janos Kornai in recognition of his work in inspiring economic transition in former communist societies. Created in 1994, the award has been given to Karl Popper, Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz, Tom Lantos, Bronislaw Geremek, Ricardo Lagos, Carla Del Ponte, Kofi Annan, Richard C. Holbrooke, Joachim Gauck and Kristalina Georgieva, among others. The Prize will be presented to Kornai at CEU's commencement ceremony in Budapest on June 22.  

“A quiet iconoclast, a free spirit, a much-loved teacher, a devoted husband and father, a radical thinker and a critical patriot, Kornai demonstrates what one man can achieve when his life and work are inspired by a commitment to freedom and a fearless intellectual honesty, the essential values of an open society,” said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff. 

Kornai pioneered an economic analysis that laid bare the destructive irrationality of communist regimes. Key works such as “Overcentralization” and “Economics of Shortage” inspired a generation of reformers in China, Russia and Eastern Europe. After 1989, when the transitions began, Kornai’s works such as “The Road to Freedom” proposed a humane and just path toward a market economy. 

He is the Allie S. Freed Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University and an honorary professor emeritus of Corvinus University of Budapest. He is also a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Academia Europaea, as well as a Foreign Member of the American, British, Bulgarian, Finnish, Russian and Swedish Academies.

Kornai's work has been translated into more than 20 languages. He has received the highest Hungarian prizes for scholarship, as well as the Seidman Award (USA), the Humboldt Prize (Germany), the Erasmus Medal (Academia Europaea) and the Leontief Medal (Russia). He is also an Officer of the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France).