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Mark Weiner Receives 2015 Grawemeyer Award for World Order

Mark Weiner is the recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for ideas improving world order, the University of Louisville announced Monday evening.

The Rutgers University law professor earned the $100,000 prize for ideas set forth in his 2013 book, “The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom.”

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

In its announcement, U of L said:
Clans, societies based on kinship, have existed throughout history. Often found in nations with weak governments, they exist today in many predominately Muslim countries, including those in the wake of Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. Because these groups developed their values from tribal principles, they place collective strength above personal freedom – a clash that puts them in tension with liberal societies and causes them to resist “reform” by outside forces, Weiner says. If clans and liberal societies are ever to share common ground, he argues, they first need to understand one another’s legal and political traditions.
Weiner began teaching constitutional law and legal history at Rutgers in 2001 and later became the 2006 Sidney I. Reitman Scholar. He is the author of two other books, "American Without Law: The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship" and "Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginning of Slavery to the End of Caste."

Weiner spoke to WFPL about his book and his views of the judicial system in the U.S. and abroad:

 What does an ancient form of social organization reveal about the future of individual freedom?

I think it reveals among other things that individual freedom faces a particular series of threats and also that there are a set of opportunities that people who are dedicated to individual freedom, people who are dedicated to the principles underlying liberal democratic government can use to advance those values.

What do you think is the biggest legal issue facing the country right now?

The most important challenge that the United States faces today is to ensure that its public state institutions work and that they work well and that they work on behalf of all citizens. That's the big picture. That's the big goal that we as a society have to achieve as a legal matter. We have to achieve it not only for ourselves, but also so that our society can  continue to serve as a model and as an inspiration for people everywhere in the world who are seeking to build societies of individual freedom in their own country.

Why are laws important in maintaining order? 

Law is important at the international level to ensure that the world system of nation states doesn't essentially end up replicating the kind of clan feud that you see at the tribal level in societies in which there isn't an overarching legal order or state. We need to attend to our international institutions to ensure that they work and that they're effective just as much as we need to attend to our local state and national institutions within the United States.

What other projects can people expect from you in the future?

A follow-up to "Rule of the Clan." In "The Rule of the Clan," I examined the social and legal structure of this particular type of group life-clan societies- and asked how those societies function in legal terms. In my next book, what I hope to do is think about the fundamental rules that make modern individualism possible. The second is a  series of films. I'm trying  to explore the distinctive, esthetic resources that film offers to tell stories about history, especially the history about our laws.

How do you plan to use the $100,000 award?

To keep doing my work. The award, which is the greatest professional honor I've ever received in my life, is incredibly important to me. Not simply because I feel honored by it—I'm just so grateful that the judges decided that my book was worthy of their endorsement. That feels great. It's very important to me in practical terms. It incentivizes intellectual risks.

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