Economist János Kornai to receive CEU Open Society Prize


The Central European University (CEU) is awarding its highest honor, the Open Society Prize, to the distinguished Hungarian economist János Kornai in recognition of his work in inspiring economic transition in former communist societies.

Created in 1994, past recipients of the prize include Karl Popper, Václav Havel, Árpád Göncz, Tom Lantos, Carla Del Ponte, Kofi Annan, and Richard Holbrooke, according to a press release from the CEU Communications Office. The prize will be presented to Kornai, aged 90, at CEUʼs commencement ceremony in Budapest on June 22.

“A quiet iconoclast, a free spirit, a much-loved teacher, a devoted husband and father, a radical thinker and a critical patriot, Kornai demonstrates what one man can achieve when his life and work are inspired by a commitment to freedom and a fearless intellectual honesty, the essential values of an open society,” said CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff.  

Kornai pioneered an economic analysis that laid bare the destructive irrationality of communist regimes. Key works such as “Overcentralization” and “Economics of Shortage” inspired a generation of reformers in China, Russia and Eastern Europe, says the press release. After 1989, when the transitions began, Kornai’s works, such as “The Road to Freedom,” proposed a humane and just path toward a market economy, it adds.

Kornai is the Allie S. Freed Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University and an honorary professor emeritus of Corvinus University of Budapest. He is also a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Academia Europaea, as well as a foreign member of the American, British, Bulgarian, Finnish, Russian and Swedish Academies.  

Kornaiʼs work has been translated into more than 20 languages. He has received the highest Hungarian awards for scholarship, including the prestigious Széchenyi Prize, as well as the Seidman Award (U.S.), the Humboldt Prize (Germany), the Erasmus Medal (Academia Europaea), and the Leontief Medal (Russia). He is also an Officer of the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France).

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