The Woodrow Wilson Award is given annually for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs. The award, formerly supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, is sponsored by Princeton University.
Social scientists have been theorizing about the causes of social development at least since the 18th century. Yet a vast amount of variation remains to be explained. In recent decades we have moved away from explanations based purely economic factors to consider a rich array of political, institution and society based determinants of development. In this context, Prerna Singh’s book How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India, which received the Woodrow Wilson Prize in 2016, presents a radically new and original argument. Focusing on variation in social development outcomes within Indian states, and using an innovative mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, the book argues that it is differences in the emergence of sub-national identities that can explain variation in pro-development policy and thus social development. The book provides a historically rooted argument about the comparative emergence of sub-national identities in different regions of India and a rich set of ideas about how this can impact social policies and development through the behavior of both elites and citizens. It provides powerful and novel ideas about how to think about policy and promises to have the same sort of impact on political science that Robert Putnam’s book, Making Democracy Work, has had.
Special Thanks to John Mollenkopf, Ashutosh Varshney, and James Robinson.