Edward Shils

1983 Balzan Prize for Sociology

For his important innovative and unique contribution to contemporary sociology. He has combined the more empirical tradition of American sociology with European sociology’s more theoretical approach, analysing and defending the intellectual and moral responsibility of the social sciences, and emphasizing the components of civilization, cultural tradition and religious orientation in the development of the social order.

Edward Shils (1910 – 1995), Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago and Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge England, is one of the world’s most distinguished and influential sociologists.

He has succeeded in bringing together the more empirical tradition of the Chicago school and the theoretical thinking of European social scientists such as Simmel, Weber and Mannheim and probably more than any other single person, he has stressed the importance of combining them in a single framework, thus making an important contribution towards a truly universal, general sociology, as against the « French », « German » and « American » sociologies.

His own important and innovative contribution to sociology, sociological analysis and theories and the articulation of sociological tradition as part of the broad contemporary intellectual culture has been inspired, above all, by his concern about a modem social order in which the components of civility are very central and in which the different elements of cultural tradition, human interaction and the orientation to the sacred are incorporated in a civil order.

Of crucial importance has been his concern with the New Nations, his work in India, in which he was one of the pioneers and in which he always emphasized his concern about intellectuals and institutions of learning, and the humanistic calling of sociology.

Thus, his numerous analyses of the different modes and constructions of intellectual tradition and the social attitudes of intellectuals, his analyses of ideology and institutions of learning and science, containing very profound analytical sociological insights, are rooted in his basic concern for the ways in which intellectuals, as carriers of the major cultural traditions, and institutions of learning, are contributing to the development of such order or are destructive of it.

This concern was also his guiding line in the editorship of the « Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists » and « Minerva », an unusual feat in the contemporary intellectual world.

Similarly, his analysis of the development and institutionalization of sociology, is based as is all his work — not only on an uncommon erudition, but on a profound belief that sociology may play an important role as a vehicle to put across an instructive message to the modem mass societies to offset the various ideological trends and formations to which they are very prone.

All his works reveal his emphasis on the dimension of the transcendental and the orientation to the sacred in the construction of social order, his analysis and reformulation of stratification and political authority and of the role of intellectuals from this point of view, as well as his very penetrating analysis of the strength and fragility of centres in traditional and modem societies.

All these provide very powerful insights and indications for new directions for systematic sociological research which are very innovative and original and make him a unique figure in contemporary sociology.

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