Recipients of Gordon J. Laing Prize celebrate 50 years, 2013 winner Andreas Glaeser

The awarding of the Gordon J. Laing Prize to Andreas Glaeser, Professor in Sociology, continued a now 50-year tradition by the University of Chicago Press to recognize the work of UChicago faculty authors whose books it publishes.

At an event held April 24 in the Quadrangle Club and attended by other winners of the recognition, Glaeser was applauded for his book, Political Epistemics: The Secret Police, The Opposition, and The End of East German Socialism.

The book analyzes the disintegration of socialism by studying how people’s thoughts and feelings about the socialist project and their actions changed in response to minute everyday experiences, amplifying each other. Thus he shows how disappointment became radicalized dissidence, and how secret police officers who once had sworn to defend socialism at the cost of bloodshed failed to do so.

The results of this study are twofold. On the one hand it provides a novel account of how socialism failed. On the other it offers a fresh theory of institutional formation and change, which is of great significance for understanding these processes elsewhere. The book has been described in reviews as “a magnificent testimony to the resurgence of the sociology of knowledge.”

Glaeser, a sociologist of culture, joined the faculty in 1998, after receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1997.  He also authored Divided in Unity: Identity, Germany and the Berlin Police, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000.

The Laing Prize originated in 1963 and was named in honor of the scholar who, serving as general editor of the Press from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States. It is conferred annually by a vote of the Board of University Publications. The Board awards the Laing Prize to the UChicago faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the previous two years that brings the Press the greatest distinction.