Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies

2013 Citation Recipient

Gerald Easter

The Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies, established in 2008 and sponsored by the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eurasia, or Eastern Europe in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Gerald Easter
Title: Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States (Cornell University Press)

The question of why we observe different regime outcomes across postcommunist states has been at the heart of the study of transition politics since the mid-1990s. Relying on an interdisciplinary framework, Gerald Easter’s masterful study transforms the debate to illuminate the complexity of state-society relations in the postcommunist context. The rich analytic narratives of tax policy and coercive capacity in two states, Russia and Poland, are rooted in history and combine a wide range of evidence to support the argument.  Easter’s book is an outstanding contribution to the literature on regime change that is appropriate for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in a range of disciplines. The committee agreed that this is one of the best-written, most accessible pieces of research to appear in recent years. As one committee member argued, “Easter has a way of finding just the right quote or turn of phrase to make the intricate world of fiscal politics easy to understand. More than this, he brings his subject to life for the reader.”

Honorable Mention: Sonia Hirt
Title: Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-Socialist City (Wiley-Blackwell)

Relying on a detailed and wide-ranging empirical study of Sophia, Bulgaria, Sonia Hirt provides a thoroughly researched and brilliantly written study of post-socialist urbanism that is a must read for anyone interested in contemporary urban politics, and especially questions related to the privatization of public spaces. This timely study focuses on the cultural forces that are reshaping the spaces and spatiality of the post-socialist city without losing sight of the importance of economic and political factors. A culmination of over a decade researching the social and spatial change in post-socialist Sophia, Hirt’s writing reflects a deep scholarly engagement and personal connection with the city, and at the same time gives voice to those taking part in and resisting these changes. This interdisciplinary study will find a broad audience in contemporary post-socialist studies.