The award had honored Habermas as the Cultural Personality of the Year, a distinction that carries a cash prize of 1 million dirhams (over $272,000). Winners of other categories receive 750,000 UAE dirhams ($204,200) each. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had personally congratulated Habermas for his win. Organizers had arranged an online award ceremony to run as part of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair later this month.
Habermas' influential writings on human rights, morality and democracy, among other topics, have stirred debate in Germany and beyond. He has been a proponent of critical social theory and studied under Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt School of thought associated with the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University in Frankfurt. His works include “Theory of Communicative Action” and “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.”
Oil-rich and image-conscious Abu Dhabi increasingly has sought to pitch itself as a budding cultural center where east meets west, its outpost of France's iconic Louvre Museum filled with hundreds of loaned works of art. Despite those lofty goals, the country's contentious politics can intrude. The UAE bans political parties and labor unions, while docile local media remains remain largely state-owned or government-linked.