courtesy Kojin Karatani

The Berggruen Institute, a Los Angeles think tank, has named Kojin Karatani, the Amagasaki, Japan–born philosopher and critic, as its 2022 laureate for the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. Karatani is the first Asian laureate to receive the honor and its accompanying $1 million prize.

Known for influential lines of study that span politics, aesthetics, and economics, Karatani's work has also focused on architecture and architectural history. In 1995, he authored Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money (MIT Press), a book exploring how architecture shapes Western mentalities, according to a description from the publisher. Karatani has also taught at institutions around the world including Hosei University in Tokyo, Yale University., Columbia University, Kinki University in Osaka, Japan, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Karatani’s reading of Marx flips the idea that the economic mode of production is the ‘substructure’ that determines all else and postulates instead that it is the ever-shifting ‘mode of exchange’ among capital, the state and nation which together shapes a society," said Nicolas Berggruen, chairman of the Berggruen Institute, in a press release announcing the 2022 winner. "Not an arm-chair philosopher, Kojin Karatani has actively promoted a modern form of the kind of reciprocity he saw in ancient Ionian culture, which he calls ‘associationism.’ In practical terms in Japan, this has meant a call for the activation of civil society, such as through citizens’ assemblies, which would exercise democracy from the bottom up and outside of elected government. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident, Karatani famously called for ‘a society where people can demonstrate’ that would expand the space of civil society and constrain the power of the state, bureaucratic, and corporate establishment. I am pleased that the Prize Jury has chosen such an original mind—someone whose contributions, straddling both East and West, have pioneered new philosophical concepts and generative political thinking.”

Selected from a pool of hundreds of nominees, Karatani will accept the award during a ceremony scheduled for the spring of 2023. Karatani is the seventh recipient of the prize, joining a class of laureates that includes Australian philosopher Peter Singer (2021), the late physician Paul Farmer (2020), and the late American Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2019).