Further Reflections on the Nobel Effect
I appreciate the remarks of Ken, Greg, and Anne. Just a few quick thoughts by way of response. First, I like the way Greg and Anne describe the teleology of the Nobel Peace Prize. I think that is an accurate way to put it. There are undeniable themes that wax and wane in the history of the prize, and they are fairly consistent with the evolution of international law. Each period builds on the other, and slowly the edifice of international law took shape. Indeed, one of the reasons the Nobel Peace Prize has been accused of mission creep is because so much of the original agenda of the prize has been achieved.
Regarding the comment that the Pacifist Period and the Statesman Period are hard to distinguish from one another, I agree that the themes are largely similar during the two periods, but I do not agree that the periods are indistinguishable. The norms prohibiting offensive war and establishing a permanent international judiciary emerged during the Pacifist Period but cascaded during the Statesman period. Meanwhile the dream of the complete abolition of war died a painful death. And the Pacifist Period’s vision of interstate arbitration as the alternative to war was overtaken by the emergence of a permanent international judiciary during the Statesman Period. In addition, some norms, such as international human rights, only began to emerge with any force during the Statesman Period. In short, the life cycle of international norms transcends the specific periods, but history does reveal an undeniable shift in emphasis among Nobel Laureates in different periods.
Regarding the wisdom of using the label “entrepreneur” for a “norm emerger” like Bertha von Suttner, or a “norm cascader” like Frank Kellogg, or a “norm internalizer” like Desmond Tutu, I rather like the call for descriptive clarity you suggest. Different Laureates undoubtedly serve different purposes, and “entrepreneur” may be too generic a term to provide real explanatory value.
As for the question of who is the real entrepreneur, the Laureates or the Nobel Committee, it is a question that has not escaped my consideration. I think the answer is that both are entrepreneurs. I have no doubt that most Laureates are “norm entrepreneurs” with or without the prize. One can name dozens of individuals who have been effective entrepreneurs without the honor. But the power of the Nobel Committee to anoint someone with the honor of receiving the most prestigious prize in the world certainly empowers that person. As Desmond Tutu put it, as soon as he received the prize everything changed. He became an oracle of wisdom whose every word was received with awe, despite the fact that the words he spoke were the same before and after the prize. I have little doubt that the Nobel Committee is acutely aware of the impact its action have in promoting certain norms.
Turning to Ken’s comments regarding campaigns for the prize, I do not think that history has been unkind to the Nobel Committee in this regard. I have looked at the archives of nominations in Oslo and I have seen numerous “campaigns” that failed, including repeated nominations of individuals who deserved the prize, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. In other cases, some Laureates have received the prize despite intensive campaigning for another candidate, such as the awards to the then-obscure Shirin Ebadi in 2003 and Wangari Maathi in 2004, despite the fact that everyone thought the aging Pope John Paul II was a shoe-in. And sometimes a “campaign” is necessary to highlight the life of a worthy candidate who has spent her life toiling in obscurity, as was the case with the BBC’s Malcolm Muggeridge’s efforts to honor Mother Theresa.
As for Ken’s comment that an ill-timed prize can adversely effect the recipient, I agree. But Laureates recognize the moral authority that is placed upon them when receiving this prize, and by and large they admirably attempt to live up to the challenge. Sure there is fallout within an campaign when one leader is honored and another of equal stature is not. But I’m not sure how frequently that occurs. The counterexample to your illustration is the award to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, with the Yunus the undeniable leader of the microfinance movement. I would also add that ill-timed awards have been among the most controversial, such as the 1994 award to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin in the hopes that it would spur peace in the Middle East. I disagree with the notion that individuals or organizations engage in good works with the hopes of achieving the prize. Almost no one “deserves” the Nobel Peace Prize, and even the rare individuals who do sometimes don’t receive it. Only the most self-congratulatory organization or individual could actually believe that their deeds would merit such an honor.