No award is without any controversy and the same holds in the case of the ‘Nobel Prize’.
Whenever a prize is awarded on matters which have a subjective interpretation, the emergence of controversy is evident.
There is certainly going to be a set of individuals who will opine that someone else was more deserving, or the awardee does not deserve to be conferred with the honour.
Nobel Prize, which garners most media attention, is most controversial.
The Nobel Prize awarded in Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine) is least controversial, as people in media, most of them being social sciences graduates, have limited capability to opine on these subjects.
However, the Prizes awarded in Peace, Literature and Economics receive greater media attention and therefore are more controversial.
Nobel Peace Prize, awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is the most controversial category.
The ‘Peace’ Prize has been awarded to people like Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres- all of these individuals had been actively involved waging war against other countries.
Many American politicians like Al Gore (Vice President), Jimmy Carter were awarded Peace Prize without any contribution. They were awarded the Prize just because they lobbied for it.
Adolf Hitler, the messiah of war, was nominated for Peace Prize several times. Mahatma Gandhi, the person who led the peaceful freedom movement against the British Empire, was never awarded with Peace Prize. Malala Yousafzai, a recent awardee, has come out as Islamist and complete hypocrite.
Henry Kissinger (1973), former US Secretary of State is considered ‘hawk among the hawks’ of foreign policy. After Chanakya, he is perhaps among most ardent supporters of Realpolitik (foreign policy without ethical, moral or ideological obligations).
Barack Obama (2009), former US president who was ‘surprised’ to know that he has been chosen for Nobel Peace Prize, sent 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan a few days after the announcement of the prize.
Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat (1994) were awarded ‘Peace Prize’ “to honour a political act which called for great courage on both sides, and which has opened up opportunities for a new development towards fraternity in the Middle East.” Both individuals were responsible for the militarization of their countries and the death of lakhs of people.
Peres also started Israel’s militarization program. Two years after the awarded with the Prize, Peres massacred 106 people sheltering in UN compound in Lebanon. The Palestine-Israeli conflict is yet to be solved.
Malala Yousafzai (2014) has supported Islamization and militarization of Pakistan. She has justified atrocities of the Pakistani army in border areas (FATA, PoK, Balochistan, and Northwestern frontier province). For more details on the hypocrisy of Malala Yousafzai, read the following article by our columnist.
“Let’s face it, the Nobel Peace Prize is a farce; it has been for a long time. Really, it’s time we stopped pretending otherwise and put an end to the pomp and pretence altogether. Indeed, it’s amazing anyone can still say the words “Nobel peace prize” with a straight face considering its recipients constitute a who’s who of hawks, hypocrites and war criminals,” wrote Arwa Mahdawi, a Guardian columnist in her criticism of Nobel Prize Prize.
The Nobel Peace Prize is most controversial, and rightly so. The committee has awarded the prize to some of the most undeserving candidates and omitted obvious ones like Mahatma Gandhi.
The other controversial Nobel Prize is in the field of Economics.
Started in 1969, it’s not exactly a Nobel Prize. There is Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel which is popularly known as Nobel Prize in Economics.
Contrary to natural sciences, the winners in the field of Economics do not make any path-breaking discovery. Instead, they try to influence public policy to improve the life of common people.
Except for a few exceptional individuals like Paul Samuelson (1970), Friedrich Hayek (1974) and Milton Friedman (1976), few awardees are above controversy.
To find people with exceptional contributions, the committee conferred the prize to non-economists, Herbert Alexander Simon (1978), John Nash (1994) and Daniel Kahneman (2002).
Also, there is clear Euro-American centrism among the laureates in Economics.
More than 80 per cent of winners are American citizens (including naturalized) and the rest belong to Europe.
Arthur Lewis is the only person of non-European, non-Indian descent to win the prize.
There is lobbying for Nobel like any other award. While this does not matter for the people who had made exceptional contributions like Samuelson, Hayek or Friedman, the people who are not sure shots have to lobby.
Given the proximity of Euro-American to the selection committee, it is obvious that they could lobby better than Asian and African economists.
The two awardees outside the western world belong to India. The first being Amartya Sen who was awarded in 1998 for “contributions to welfare economics” and other is the most recent awardee Abhijit Banerjee (he holds an American passport). Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer were conferred with honour “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.
One can note that Indian economists who have been conferred Nobel Prize were awarded for contributions to poverty alleviation and welfare economics. On the other hand, the majority of the individuals from Europe and America were awarded for contribution to free-market economics.
It is an open secret that the selection committee has pro-market bias and usually leftist economists are generally not selected.
Amartya Sen himself recognized this and said that Prabhat Patnaik (one of his students) would have got Nobel Prize long ago but was denied the same due to his communist credentials.
While the awardees from West are free-market fundamentalists like Hayek and Friedman, Indians awarded with the prize are welfare economists.
Free market fundamentalists from India like Jagdish Bhagwati, B R Shenoy have not been awarded in spite of their exceptional contributions.
Paul Krugman, one of Bhagwati’s students, won the prize in 2008. Krugman won for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity. Majority of Krugman’s work was based on Bhagwati’s earlier research but the Indian American economist was not made a joint awardee.
The Nobel Prize in Economics is perhaps the most controversial award in social sciences. Given the subjective nature of social sciences (unlike Sciences), it is obvious that different set of people would see it through a different prism of ideology.