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Department of Political and Social Sciences

William Foley awarded 2023 Linz Rokkan Prize

On 16 June 2023, during the EUI Degree Conferring Ceremony, William Foley was awarded the Linz Rokkan Prize for the Best EUI Doctoral Thesis in Political Sociology.

19 June 2023 | Award

Linz Rokkan Prize_William Foley

William Foley has been awarded the 2023 Linz Rokkan Prize for the Best EUI Doctoral Thesis in Political Sociology for his dissertation titled, The Race is Not to the Swift. The Role of Social Cognition in Reproducing Class-based Inequality.

Foley defended his thesis on 25 January 2023, under the supervision of Professor Klarita Gërxhani.

In their evaluation of the thesis, the prize committee praised Foley's work, explaining how his thesis claims that the general belief that upper class individuals are more competent is a cognitive bias which helps explain contemporary political values that rest on a belief in meritocracy and acceptance of inequality. Foley first identifies this bias in an innovative experiment, separating it from statistical discrimination in what Stanford sociologist Cecilia Ridgeway describes as "the first convincing test of this sort." Next, it shows that internalisation of status beliefs inhibits educational mobility: lower class students, when placed in classrooms with many higher class classmates, are less likely to go to university. Finally, Foley tests the argument that people wish to be satisfied with the existing level of inequality, showing that when they are withheld an opportunity to equalise, they are more likely to find it just. The thesis combines rigorous theorisation on a leading question in political sociology with creative empirical designs involving original data collection.

Upon reacting to receiving the prize, Foley shares "I'm very grateful to the committee for honouring me with the Linz Rokkan award, and to Professor Richard Rose for sponsoring it. I'm also deeply grateful to my supervisor, Klarita Gërxhani, for her guidance throughout the thesis process."

Foley further outlines the importance of political sociology "not just for understanding the world, but for changing it." He emphasises that "the most pressing intellectual challenge is how to build durable collective forces that assert and materially realise the universal dignity of all human beings - against the economic inequality, climate change denialism, ethnic supremacism, and war-mongering which pervade the institutions of our supposedly enlightened and liberal world."

Finally, he shares, "the greatest prize was being able to spend four years with researchers at all levels of the EUI - from PhD researchers to professors - which I will miss immensely."

The Linz-Rokkan Prize was instituted by the EUI Department of Political and Social Sciences in honour of two great post-war political sociologists, the late Stein Rokkan and the late Juan Linz. The Prize is awarded annually for the best EUI thesis in a field of political sociology engaging with a theme in the broadly defined fields of work of Juan Linz and Stein Rokkan. It has been sponsored by Professor Richard Rose, one of the founding fathers of post-war political science in Europe.

William Foley's thesis is available in Open Access in Cadmus, the EUI's research repository.

Last update: 19 June 2023

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