Martha Finnemore Wins ‘Nobel Prize’ of Political Science

The political science and international affairs professor was recognized for her groundbreaking work on areas including global governance.

May 30, 2023

Martha Finnemore

University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Martha Finnemore won the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science.

Martha Finnemore, University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, widely regarded as the most esteemed honor in the field and often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Political Science.”

A world-renowned expert on global governance, international organizations, cybersecurity and constructivist social theory, Finnemore was cited for “her influential scholarship and empirical research” by the Johan Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University in Sweden, which administers the award. The prize committee of international scholars praised Finnemore for academic achievements that have “significantly contributed to advancing constructivism in the study of international organizations and their impact on global governance.”

The award citation noted, “Her work has highlighted the crucial role of norms and ideas in shaping state behaviour within international institutions.”

Finnemore, who received the award along with Ohio State University Political Science Professor Alexander Wendt, thanked the foundation for recognizing her scholarship. “Receiving the Johan Skytte prize is a great honor. It recognizes not just me and Alex Wendt but also the now-extensive group of scholars researching the sociological features of global politics,” she said.

She singled out her GW colleagues for their support since she first came to the university in 1991. “GW was a great place to do some of the earliest work in this vein,” she said. “Not only did I have support from extraordinary colleagues in a world-class department, but being in Washington meant I was always stumbling over new head-scratching puzzles to research.” 

Political Science Chair Eric Lawrence noted that the Johan Skytte Prize is among the most prestigious awards a political scientist can receive. “It is a tremendous honor for [Finnemore] to win the award for her path-breaking research,” he said, adding that Finnemore “makes the Department of Political Science and GW a better place, and this award reaffirms that fact.”

Finnemore is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science and a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She has been a visiting research fellow at the Brookings Institution and Stanford University. Throughout her career, she has received fellowships or grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Smith Richardson Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace.

Among her many publications, Finnemore is the co-author (with GW’s Professor Michael Barnett) of the book “Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics,” which won the International Studies Association’s award for Best Book in 2006. She is also the author of “National Interests in International Society” and “The Purpose of Intervention,” which won the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Award as “the best book published on government, politics or international affairs” in 2004.

Since 1995, the Skytte Prize has been awarded annually to scholars who have made outstanding and groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of political science and its relevance in the world today. The prize includes a cash award of SEK 500,000—about $46,000—and a silver medal. Finnemore and Wendt will be recognized at a ceremony at Uppsala University later this year.