Mark E. Button — 2019 Heinz I. Eulau Award Recipient, Perspectives on Politics

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Heinz I. Eulau Award to Dr. Mark E. Button at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline.  The $750 award, supported by Cambridge University Press, recognizes the best article published in Perspectives on Politics.

Mark E. Button (Rutgers University PhD, 2001) was recently appointed as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Prior to assuming the position of Dean of Arts and Sciences at UNL, Button was a member of the Political Science faculty at the University of Utah from 2001-2019, serving as Department Chair from 2014-2019.

Button is the author of Political Vices (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Contract, Culture, and Citizenship: Transformative Liberalism from Hobbes to Rawls (Penn State University Press, 2008).  His articles on political ethics, deliberative democracy, and the history of moral and political thought have appeared in Perspectives on Politics; Political Studies; Political Research Quarterly; Political Theory; Social Theory and Practice; Polity; Law, Culture, and the Humanities; and The Encyclopedia of Political Thought.  He is co-editor and contributing author of the forthcoming interdisciplinary volume: Suicide and Social Justice: New Perspectives on the Politics of Suicide and Suicide Prevention (Routledge Press, 2019).

Mark is a first-generation college student from a small town in rural Eastern Oregon.  Mark met his wife, Sarah, at the University of Oregon where they graduated in 1991.  They have been married for 26 years.  Sarah (MEd) teaches fifth grade and together they have raised their two daughters, Kate (20) and Leah (18).

Here is what the Award Committee had to say about their decision:

In “Bounded Rationality without Bounded Democracy: Nudges, Democratic Citizenship, and Pathways for Building Civic Capacity” (Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4, December 2018), Mark E. Button paints a bleak picture of the consequences of “the nudging state” for democratic life.  Building on recent scholarship in psychology and behavioral economics, the “nudging” approach has become a powerful force in shaping public policy across the world.  Advocates of the “nudging state” argue that policy “nudges” can shape choice architectures in ways that lead citizens to advance desirable policy goals while preserving their freedom of choice.  In his vigorous critique, Button makes clear the deeper problems this approach presents for long-term democratic reasoning.  By harnessing shortcomings to reasoning, the nudging approach to public policy undermines democratic life.  It allows the state to pursue its policy objectives through “opaque behavioral interventions that do not meaningfully include, engage, or empower citizens in their own self-governance.”  In effect, Button argues, nudging undermines personal and institutional qualities essential to democratic life, such as the “democratic-deliberative capacities and virtues of public reasoning, reciprocal listening, and pursuing mutually workable agreements to collective problems.”  This scholarly tour de force distills vast literatures in political theory and public policy in support of a powerful case that will have a lasting impact on a broad swath of important scholarly, political, and policy issues.