Professor Margaret Levi at Stanford University and University of Washington is awarded the prize for: "having laid the foundations of our understanding of why citizens accept state coercion, by combining theoretical acumen and historical knowledge."
In her work, Levi often re-visits the sources of legitimacy behind state coercion and coercion exercised by other collectives. According to Levi, the state could not exist without what she calls a quasi-voluntary consent to being governed, paying taxes and obeying laws which we might not necessarily like or have not actively helped to create. As the experience of many dictatorial rulers shows, the price of governing is often high. In the worst scenarios, people have to be divided by walls, placed under surveillance, bribed with “bread and games” – but even these strategies do not necessarily make the rulers safe. A potential revolt is always brewing. Governing becomes much easier when consent is given, which, as Levi shows, is best achieved if national politics is perceived as fair, if decision-making procedures are perceived as inclusive and if there is a belief that everyone contributes without free-riding.
Margaret Levi Illustration by Anna Illeby