The Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals
Who are the world's leading public intellectuals? FP and Britain’s Prospect magazine would like to know who you think makes the cut. We’ve selected our top 100, and want you to vote for your top five. If you don’t see a name that you think deserves top honors, include them as a write-in candidate. Voting closes October 10, and the results will be posted the following month.
NameOccupationCountry Chinua AchebeNovelistNigeria Jean BaudrillardSociologist, cultural criticFrance Gary BeckerEconomistUnited States Pope Benedict XVIReligious leaderGermany, Vatican Jagdish BhagwatiEconomistIndia, United States Fernando Henrique CardosoSociologist, former presidentBrazil Noam ChomskyLinguist, author, activistUnited States J.M. CoetzeeNovelistSouth Africa Gordon ConwayAgricultural ecologistBritain Robert CooperDiplomat, writerBritain Richard DawkinsBiologist, polemicist Britain Hernando de SotoEconomistPeru Pavol DemesPolitical analystSlovakia Daniel DennettPhilosopherUnited States Kemal DervisEconomistTurkey Jared DiamondBiologist, physiologist, historianUnited States Freeman DysonPhysicistUnited States Shirin EbadiLawyer, human rights activistIran Umberto EcoMedievalist, novelistItaly Paul EkmanPsychologistUnited States Fan GangEconomistChina Niall FergusonHistorianBritain Alain FinkielkrautEssayist, philosopherFrance Thomas FriedmanJournalist, authorUnited States Francis FukuyamaPolitical scientist, authorUnited States Gao XingjianNovelist, playwrightChina Howard GardnerPsychologistUnited States Timothy Garton AshHistorianBritain Henry Louis Gates Jr.Scholar, cultural criticUnited States Clifford GeertzAnthropologistUnited States Neil GershenfeldPhysicist, computer scientistUnited States Anthony GiddensSociologistBritain Germaine GreerWriter, academicAustralia, Britain JHabermasPhilosopherGermany Ha JinNovelistChina Vav HavelPlaywright, statesmanCzech Republic Ayaan Hirsi AliPoliticianSomalia, Netherlands Christopher HitchensPolemicistUnited States, Britain Eric HobsbawmHistorianBritain Robert HughesArt criticAustralia Samuel HuntingtonPolitical scientist United States Michael IgnatieffWriter, human rights theoristCanada Shintaro IshiharaPolitician, authorJapan Robert KaganAuthor, political commentatorUnited States Daniel KahnemanPsychologistIsrael, United States Sergei KaraganovForeign-policy analystRussia Paul KennedyHistorianBritain, United States Gilles KepelScholar of IslamFrance Naomi KleinJournalist, authorCanada Rem KoolhaasArchitectNetherlands Enrique KrauzeHistorian Mexico Julia KristevaPhilosopherFrance Paul KrugmanEconomist, columnistUnited States Hans Kd>TheologianSwitzerland Jaron LanierVirtual reality pioneerUnited States Lawrence LessigLegal scholarUnited States Bernard LewisHistorianBritain, United States BjomborgEnvironmentalistDenmark James LovelockScientistBritain Kishore MahbubaniAuthor, diplomatSingapore Ali MazruiPolitical scientistKenya Sunita NarainEnvironmentalistIndia Antonio NegriPhilosopher, activistItaly Martha NussbaumPhilosopherUnited States Sari NusseibehDiplomat, philosopherPalestine Kenichi OhmaeManagement theoristJapan Amos OzNovelistIsrael Camille PagliaSocial critic, authorUnited States Orhan PamukNovelistTurkey Steven PinkerExperimental psychologistCanada, United States Richard PosnerJudge, scholar, authorUnited States Pramoedya Ananta ToerWriter, dissidentIndonesia Yusuf al-QaradawiClericEgypt, Qatar Robert PutnamPolitical scientistUnited States Tariq RamadanScholar of Islam Switzerland Martin ReesAstrophysicistBritain Richard RortyPhilosopherUnited States Salman RushdieNovelist, political commentatorBritain, India Jeffrey SachsEconomistUnited States Elaine ScarryLiterary theoristUnited States Amartya SenEconomistIndia Peter SingerPhilosopherAustralia Ali al-SistaniClericIran, Iraq Peter SloterdijkPhilosopherGermany Abdolkarim SoroushReligious theoristIran Wole SoyinkaPlaywright, activistNigeria Lawrence SummersEconomist, academicUnited States Mario Vargas LlosaNovelist, politician Peru Harold VarmusMedical scientistUnited States Craig VenterBiologist, businessmanUnited States Michael WalzerPolitical theoristUnited States Florence WambuguPlant PathologistKenya Wang JisiForeign-policy analystChina Steven WeinbergPhysicistUnited States E.O. WilsonBiologistUnited States James Q. WilsonCriminologistUnited States Paul WolfowitzPolicymaker, academicUnited States Fareed ZakariaJournalist, authorUnited States Zheng BijianPolitical scientistChina Slavoj ZizekSociologist, philosopherSlovenia
The irony of this thinkers list is that it does not bear thinking about too closely. The problems of definition and judgment that it involves would discourage more rigorous souls. But some criteria must be spelled out. What is a public intellectual? Someone who has shown distinction in their own field along with the ability to communicate ideas and influence debate outside of it.
Candidates must have been alive, and still active in public life (though many on this list are past their prime). Such criteria ruled out the likes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Milton Friedman, who would have been automatic inclusions 20 or so years ago. This list is about public influence, not intrinsic achievement. And that is where things get really tricky. Judging influence is hard enough inside ones own culture, but when you are peering across cultures and languages, the problem becomes far harder. Obviously our list of 100 has been influenced by where most of us sit, in the English-speaking West.
We tried to avoid the box ticking problem of having x Chinese, y economists and z under-50s. But we have also tried to give due weight to the important thinkers in all the main intellectual disciplines and centers of population. We also tried to ensure that all names on the list are influential in at least a few countries in their region, if not the entire globe. We may not have succeeded in following all these rules to the letter, but for those of you irritated by our choices, there is a small safety valvea write-in vote that allows you to nominate a name that wasnt included on our list. Prospect and Foreign Policy