Annual Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture Awarded to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Her Work in Pioneering Gender Equality and Strengthening the Rule of Law

Legal Scholar, Judge and Advocate Whose Work Provided a New Era of Vital Philosophical Ideas to Fruition; Extending Women’s Rights and Human Rights Rooted in Ethical Principles

Rachel S. Bauch

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

The Berggruen Prize Jury today announced its selection of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States as the winner of the 2019 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture. The $1 million award is given annually to thinkers whose ideas have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world. Justice Ginsburg will direct the monetary prize to charitable or non-profit organizations that she designates.

Justice Ginsburg was selected from more than 500 nominees and a shortlist of five, which included some of the world’s most renowned thinkers from various fields including social science, global justice, animal rights, and bioethics. Since its inception in 2016, the Berggruen Prize has been awarded to four outstanding thinkers, three of them women.

“It is a true honor to have Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the recipient of this year’s Berggruen Prize,” stated Institute Founder and Chairman Nicolas Berggruen. “I am delighted the Jury has chosen to honor such a prolific leader in the field of jurisprudence. Throughout her career, Ginsburg has used the law to advance ethical and philosophical principles of equality and human rights as basic tenets of the USA. Her contributions have shaped our way of life and way of thinking and have demonstrated to the world the importance of the rule of law in disabling discrimination.”

Ginsburg is a lifelong trailblazer for human rights and gender equality. For more than 26 years, as the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she has authored several notable opinions, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C. and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. She has also penned notable dissents, among them, in Shelby County v. Holder, and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Justice Ginsburg has been a constant voice for justice, equal and accessible to all.

“By grit and determination, brains, courage, compassion and a fiery commitment to justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg rose from modest beginnings to become one of the most respected, and most beloved, jurists of our time.  She inspires women and men of all ages to realize that a democracy thrives to the extent that it provides every citizen equal footing to achieve their dreams,” remarked Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania and Berggruen Prize Juror. “Justice Ginsburg has few peers in advancing the cause of human equality through the law.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has received numerous awards, including the American Bar Association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal, also the Thurgood Marshall Award, as well as the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. Additional honors include the Genesis Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Jewish Culture in Sweden’s Gilel Storch Award, in recognition for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights. In 1971, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel, 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors, 1974–1980. Ginsburg was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. Together with Herma Hill Kay and Kenneth Davidson, she authored the first law school textbook on sex-based discrimination. In 2018, Ginsburg was the subject of two critically acclaimed films, the documentary, RBG, and the biopic, On the Basis of Sex. My Own Words, a collection of her writings dating back to her grade school years, was published in 2016.

“Few in our era have done more to bring vital philosophical ideas to fruition in practical affairs than Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” stated Kwame Anthony Appiah, Chair of the Berggruen Prize and Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. “She has been both a visionary and a strategic leader in securing equality, fairness, and the rule of law not only in the realm of theory, but in social institutions and the lives of individuals.”

Established by philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen, the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture was first awarded in 2016 to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor for his impact on the humanities, social sciences and public affairs in deepening understanding among different intellectual traditions and civilization. Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve was the 2017 Berggruen Prize laureate for her work as a citizen philosopher who has elevated the quality of public life and improved the very vocabulary of public discourse. Last year, public and moral philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum received the award for her framework for thinking about human capabilities, and exploring vulnerability, fear and anger in moral and political life.

This year’s Berggruen Prize Jury is headed by Kwame Anthony Appiah and comprised an international group of Nobel laureates, authors, and thinkers including Antonio Damasio, David Chalmers, Elif Shafak, Wang Hui, and former Berggreuen Prize Jury member Amy Gutmann. The winner of the 2019-2020 Berggruen Prize emerged from a list of finalists from diverse fields of research. The Berggruen Institute administers the Prize and welcomes nominations of thinkers whose ideas have both intellectual depth and long-term social and practical value across nations and cultures.

The Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture will be conferred in a private ceremony on December 16 at the New York Public Library. The ceremony will include tribute speeches and the presentation of the Berggruen Prize trophy commissioned by Nicolas Berggruen by the artist Cai Guo-Qiang, along with special performances by Yuja Wang and Denyce Graves.


About the Berggruen Institute
The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop foundational ideas and shape political, economic, and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, we bring together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to explore fundamental questions of our time. Our objective is enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, strengthened the ballot initiative process in California, and, included the creation of The WorldPost, a global media platform that brings thought leaders from around the world to share ideas. In addition, the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award is conferred annually by an independent jury to a thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.