Jacob Levy also writes about the Clark medal, and asks whether such awards are worthwhile. I’m not sure. Like Political Science, Sociology has a few awards that are presented at the annual meeting, such as a best book award, a distinguished contribution to scholarship award and a best dissertation award. I can’t in good faith criticize these kinds of awards because, um, I won one last year.
Like Jacob, I think that Political Science and Sociology have too much theoretical and methodological heterogeneity to support an equivalent to the Clark medal. In my more bitter, sour-grapey moods, I sometimes think that Economics is coming it a bit high with both the Clark medal and the Nobel Prize. The former seems like a shameless rip-off of the Mathematician’s Fields Medal and the latter like a shameless rip off of, well, a Nobel Prize. Of course, it ought to go without saying that the recipients of Clark Medals and Nobel Prizes are Very Clever People Indeed. But the presence or absence of the awards themselves says more about the social organization of a discipline than anything else.