Praised by the jury as "a vivid chronicle of the descent of contemporary politics into a bedlam of competing irrationalities and appeals to unreason," Joseph Heath's book Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives captured the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing on Wednesday.
The prize, worth $25,000, was awarded during the Politics and the Pen gala in Ottawa.
In their citation, the jury – composed of Ottawa author Denise Chong, Globe and Mail Queen's Park reporter Jane Taber and Ottawa Citizen columnist Terry Glavin – praised Heath's book as "a magisterial survey of the shambles that remains of the Enlightenment's great promise" and "an important work of serious philosophy that is at the same time lively, lucid, engaging, and entertainment."
Heath, a professor of philosophy and the director of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto, is the author of several books, including Filthy Lucre and The Rebel Sell (co-written with Andrew Potter).
The other finalists were Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert with Jean Lapierre for The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was; John Ralston Saul for The Comeback: How Aboriginals Are Reclaiming Power and Influence; Graham Steele for What I Learned About Politics: Inside the Rise – and Collapse – of Nova Scotia's NDP Government; and Naomi Klein for This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction last year. They each receive $2,500.
The prize, named after the Windsor, Ont., MP who died in 1998, is awarded each year to "a book of literary non-fiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life."
Past winners include Anna Porter, Jane Jacobs and Paul Wells, who won last year's prize for The Longer I'm Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006-.