The Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize & Lecture


Recently established by the Institute in honour of our dear friend and colleague, distinguished author, academic Professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada Ellen Meiksins Wood, the award will be given annually to an academic, labour activist or writer.

The $10,000 award recognizes outstanding contributions in political theory, social or economic history, human rights, or sociology.  It acknowledges Ellen’s distinguished legacy of historical scholarship on political thought. The Awardees will be chosen for work that is emblematic of Ellen’s two-fold belief that democracy is always fought for and secured from below, not conferred from above; and, that the egalitarian values of democracy are in ongoing conflict with the unequal outcomes of capitalism.

The Awardee will deliver, annually, the Ellen Meiksins Wood Lecture.

A special fund has been established to endow the Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize & Lecture.  Your gift will be used to secure the memory of Ellen’s distinguished scholarship and deep commitment to democracy.

Please use the button below to send your gift in Ellen’s memory.


Ellen Meiksins Wood

Celebrated political theorist and socialist historian Ellen Meiksins Wood passed away in January of 2016 at the age of 73 after battling cancer. Ellen is survived by beloved second husband Ed Broadbent, founder and board chair of the Broadbent Institute, and brothers Peter Meiksins of Cleveland and Robert Meiksins of Milwaukee. She was predeceased by her first husband, Neal Wood (1922 – 2003).

Ellen was born in New York City on April 12, 1942, the daughter of political refugees from Latvia who had been active in the Jewish labour and socialist Bund movement. Ellen received her Bachelor of Arts in Slavic languages from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962 and a Ph.D. in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1970.

Ellen's first book, Mind and Politics: An Approach to the Meaning of Liberal and Socialist Individualism, was published in 1972This was followed by eight other influential books published throughout her academic career. Several were translated into many languages, including The Retreat from Class, which received the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize in 1988.

Ellen arrived in Canada in 1967 with her first husband, fellow political theorist Neal Wood to teach in the political science department at Toronto’s York University. There, she co-authored several books with Neal and taught a seminal graduate level course entitled Theory and Practice of the State in Historical Perspective. During her 30 years at York, she came to be considered one of the left's foremost theorists on democracy and history. Challenging the prevailing logic and assumptions in her field, Ellen’s scholarship emphasized the importance of political processes and class conflict in shaping historical change.

Throughout her life, Ellen remained deeply engaged in careful historical work emphasizing the very specific historical emergence of capitalism in England, and promoted the idea that democracy always has to be fought for and secured from below; that it is never benevolently conferred from above.

Ellen also spent many years in England with Neal, a country to which they both felt deeply connected. It is there she would serve on the editorial committee of the influential British journal The New Left Review, and became a much-respected and beloved member of Britain's radical left.

In 1996, Ellen was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada. Later in life, Ellen would go on to reconnect with an old acquaintance and academic colleague, and find love again with Canadian politician Ed Broadbent. Ellen and Ed spent the last six years together between Ottawa and London, debating the merits of social democracy and more radical transformation. Ellen and Ed were married in 2014. Ellen, her person and thought, will be deeply missed.


2018 Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize Recipient

Barbara Ehrenreich

Political Activist and Author of Nickel and Dimed, and Living With a Wild God.

Before becoming an activist, Ehrenreich studied cell biology and physics, graduating with a degree in physics from Reed College in 1963 and a Ph.D. in cell biology from Rockefeller University in 1968.

However, after completing her studies, Ehrenreich became involved in the anti-Vietnam war movement and began to question whether she wanted to spend her life at the laboratory bench. Ultimately, she chose to turn her attention to political and anti-war activism. She joined a tiny non-profit in New York City that advocated for better health care for the city’s poor, where part of the job was to put out a monthly bulletin. Before she knew it, she found herself thoroughly enjoying doing investigative journalism.

With the birth of her first child in 1970, Ehrenreich underwent a political, as well as a personal, transformation. The prenatal care she received at a hospital clinic showed how even Ph.Ds were not immune from the vilest forms of sexism. Bit by bit, she became involved with the “women’s health movement,” advocating for better health care for women and greater access to health information than existed at that time.

Just a few years later, she quit her teaching job at the State University of NY, Old Westbury to become a full-time writer. Her work life settled into three tracks, which continue to this day: journalism, book-length projects, and activism on such issues as health care, peace, women’s rights, and economic justice.

Each of Ehrenreich’s books changed her life in important and unexpected ways. Nickel and Dimed plunged her into the nascent living wage movement, traveling to union rallies, picket lines and organizing meetings around the country. She became comfortable addressing crowds through a bull horn, with no notes at all, got arrested at a protest with Yale workers, joined picket lines with hotel workers in Santa Monica and janitors in Miami, leafleted for a living wage in Charlottesville and marched with ACORN in Michigan.

Curiosity continues to pull Ehrenreich in different directions. She published Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, a scholarly book about festivities and ecstatic rituals. Her New York Times best seller, Bright-Sided, describes what she calls “the cult of cheerfulness,” which requires Americans to “think positively” rather than to take positive action for change. An urgent call for a new commitment to realism, Bright-Sided was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “bright, incisive, provocative thinking from a top-notch nonfiction writer,” and author Christopher Hitchens proclaimed, “Ehrenreich scores again for the independent-minded.”


2017 Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize Recipient

Paul Mason

Paul Mason is the 2017 Ellen Meiksins Wood Prize recipient. In March 2018, he gave the inaugural Ellen Meiksins Wood lecture in Toronto.

Paul Mason is a journalist, playwright and film-maker based in London, UK. Born in Leigh, Lancashire in 1960, he graduated from Sheffield University. After an initial career in academic musicology, he switched to journalism, working for various UK business magazines before becoming business correspondent on BBC Newsnight, the UK's flagship current affairs programme. In this role, and later economics editor, he covered the Enron scandal, the underground Chinese labour movement, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent social unrest. In 2013 he moved to Channel 4 News, covering among other things the Edward Snowden intelligence and the 2014 Gaza war. His 2012 book "Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere", about the Arab Spring and Occupy movement, was adapted for the stage in 2015 by the Young Vic Theatre; his second play "Divine Chaos of Starry Things", about the communard Louise Michel also gained its first performance in off-West End theatre this year. Mason's 5 books include the novel Rare Earth, and the bestselling Postcapitalism: A Guide To Our Future. He has presented numerous TV and radio documetnaries, including "Northern Soul: Keeping the Faith", "Wagner: Power, Sex and Revolution" and #ThisIsACoup (2015) - an inside account of Syriza's resistance to the IMF/ECB. He left public service broadcasting in March 2016. He writes a weekly column in the Guardian and since leaving public service news reporting has become a strong public supporter of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His forthcoming book, to be published this year, is billed as a "defence of Marxist humanism".


2017 Recipient Lecture

 Download Paul Mason's Ellen Meiksins Wood Lecture