Michael Valdez Moses on Subjective Value and the Nobel Prize in Literature


Public Domain

Three Nobel Prizes have already been announced this week, and Thomson Reuters, which has "accurately forecast 35 winners since 2002," failed to predict any of the new laureates. The well-respected firm "mines scientific research citations to identify the most influential researchers in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine, and economics." Next week's announcement by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences of the prize in Economics offers a chance for Thomson Reuters to save face. But even so prominent a handicapper, with a significant financial stake in the accuracy of its predictions, dares not predict the winners of the prizes in literature and peace, which have been awarded since 1901. Why?

Oddly enough, writes Michael Valdez Moses, for an institution so addicted to rigid ideas and authoritarian personalities, the judgment behind the awarding of the Nobel Prize in literature is an exercise in the subjective theory of value.