Last week at the annual Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) conference in Washington, D.C., Harvard University Press accepted the R.R. Hawkins Award for Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The Hawkins—the highest honor given by the PSP Division of the Association of American Publishers—recognizes the most exceptional professional, reference or scholarly work of the year. The book’s editor, Ian Malcolm, accepted the award on behalf of Piketty and the Press, and used his acceptance speech as an occasion to highlight some of the many people involved in the book’s success. A chance to pat ourselves on the back, yes, but also an opportune moment to acknowledge the unseen efforts involved in the publication of any scholarly work, and to remember that even the most singularly stellar of studies relies on a wide network of actors to help it realize its potential to “inform democratic debate and focus attention on the right questions,” the contributions that Piketty identifies in Capital as the critical role of expert analysis.
The text of Malcolm’s speech is below.
Thank you, on behalf of the author and on behalf of Harvard University Press. It’s a huge honour for all of us who worked on the book to win an award chosen by our peers in publishing, and to win it against such extraordinary competition.
I’ve been asked to speak for 5 to 10 minutes on the making of the book and why it’s an important contribution to scholarly publishing.
One of the joys of this book is that it has sold well and been reviewed widely. Many of you will already know what it’s all about.
So, thank you. I’ll sit down now.
Or so I’d like to conclude. But I’ll say a few things.
First, I want to pay tribute to the author. When I first met Thomas Piketty on a routine acquisition trip, I asked what he was working on.
“I’m trying to answer the same questions as Karl Marx,” he said, “only with better data and a clearer theory.”
Normally, that sort of grand claim is a cue for a quick editorial exit.
“Good luck! I’ll send you the email of an editor at Oxford University Press.”
But this wasn’t a normal author. Thomas was already a star in the profession. He had started thinking hard about the history and dynamics of inequality 20 years ago.