The Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals

Who are the world's leading public intellectuals?

The October 2005 cover of Prospect

Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect magazine selected their top 100, and invited readers to vote for their top five. Here was their selection criteria.

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 one's 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.

Prospect and Foreign Policy

Voting closed October 10, 2005. More than 20,000 people voted in this poll. See results below.

The Prospect/FP Top 100 Public Intellectuals

Rank Name Occupation(s) Country Total Votes
1. Noam Chomsky Linguist, author, activist United States 4827
2. Umberto Eco Medievalist, novelist Italy 2464
3. Richard Dawkins Biologist, polemicist Britain 2188
4. Václav Havel Playwright, statesman Czech Republic 1990
5. Christopher Hitchens Polemicist United States, Britain 1844
6. Paul Krugman Economist, columnist United States 1746
7. Jürgen Habermas Philosopher Germany 1639
8. Amartya Sen Economist India 1590
9. Jared Diamond Biologist, physiologist, historian United States 1499
10. Salman Rushdie Novelist, political commentator Britain, India 1468
11. Naomi Klein Journalist, author Canada 1378
12. Shirin Ebadi Lawyer, human rights activist Iran 1309
13. Hernando de Soto Economist Peru 1202
14. Bjørn Lomborg Environmentalist Denmark 1141
15. Abdolkarim Soroush Religious theorist Iran 1114
16. Thomas Friedman Journalist, author United States 1049
17. Pope Benedict XVI Religious leader Germany, Vatican 1046
18. Eric Hobsbawm Historian Britain 1037
19. Paul Wolfowitz Policymaker, academic United States 1028
20. Camille Paglia Social critic, author United States 1013
21. Francis Fukuyama Political scientist, author United States 883
22. Jean Baudrillard Sociologist, cultural critic France 858
23. Slavoj Zizek Sociologist, philosopher Slovenia 840
24. Daniel Dennett Philosopher United States 832
25. Freeman Dyson Physicist United States 823
26. Steven Pinker Experimental psychologist Canada, United States 812
27. Jeffrey Sachs Economist United States 810
28. Samuel Huntington Political scientist United States 805
29. Mario Vargas Llosa Novelist, politician Peru 771
30. Ali al-Sistani Cleric Iran, Iraq 768
31. E.O. Wilson Biologist United States 742
32. Richard Posner Judge, scholar, author United States 740
33. Peter Singer Philosopher Australia 703
34. Bernard Lewis Historian Britain, United States 660
35. Fareed Zakaria Journalist, author United States 634
36. Gary Becker Economist United States 630
37. Michael Ignatieff Writer, human rights theorist Canada 610
38. Chinua Achebe Novelist Nigeria 585
39. Anthony Giddens Sociologist Britain 582
40. Lawrence Lessig Legal scholar United States 565
41. Richard Rorty Philosopher United States 562
42. Jagdish Bhagwati Economist India, United States 561
43. Fernando Henrique Cardoso Sociologist, former president Brazil 556
44. J.M. Coetzee Novelist South Africa 548
44. Niall Ferguson Historian Britain 548
46. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Politician Somalia, Netherlands 546
47. Steven Weinberg Physicist United States 507
48. Julia Kristeva Philosopher France 487
49. Germaine Greer Writer, academic Australia, Britain 471
50. Antonio Negri Philosopher, activist Italy 452
51. Rem Koolhaas Architect Netherlands 429
52. Timothy Garton Ash Historian Britain 428
53. Martha Nussbaum Philosopher United States 422
54. Orhan Pamuk Novelist Turkey 393
55. Clifford Geertz Anthropologist United States 388
56. Yusuf al-Qaradawi Cleric Egypt, Qatar 382
57. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Scholar, cultural critic United States 379
58. Tariq Ramadan Scholar of Islam Switzerland 372
59. Amos Oz Novelist Israel 358
60. Lawrence Summers Economist, academic United States 351
61. Hans Küng Theologian Switzerland 344
62. Robert Kagan Author, political commentator United States 339
63. Paul Kennedy Historian Britain, United States 334
64. Daniel Kahneman Psychologist Israel, United States 312
65. Sari Nusseibeh Diplomat, philosopher Palestine 297
66. Wole Soyinka Playwright, activist Nigeria 296
67. Kemal Dervis Economist Turkey 295
68. Michael Walzer Political theorist United States 279
69. Gao Xingjian Novelist, playwright China 277
70. Howard Gardner Psychologist United States 273
71. James Lovelock Scientist Britain 268
72. Robert Hughes Art critic Australia 259
73. Ali Mazrui Political scientist Kenya 251
74. Craig Venter Biologist, businessman United States 244
75. Martin Rees Astrophysicist Britain 242
76. James Q. Wilson Criminologist United States 229
77. Robert Putnam Political scientist United States 221
78. Peter Sloterdijk Philosopher Germany 217
79. Sergei Karaganov Foreign-policy analyst Russia 194
80. Sunita Narain Environmentalist India 186
81. Alain Finkielkraut Essayist, philosopher France 185
82. Fan Gang Economist China 180
83. Florence Wambugu Plant Pathologist Kenya 159
84. Gilles Kepel Scholar of Islam France 156
85. Enrique Krauze Historian Mexico 144
86. Ha Jin Novelist China 129
87. Neil Gershenfeld Physicist, computer scientist United States 120
88. Paul Ekman Psychologist United States 118
89. Jaron Lanier Virtual reality pioneer United States 117
90. Gordon Conway Agricultural ecologist Britain 90
91. Pavol Demes Political analyst Slovakia 88
92. Elaine Scarry Literary theorist United States 87
93. Robert Cooper Diplomat, writer Britain 86
94. Harold Varmus Medical scientist United States 85
95. Pramoedya Ananta Toer Writer, dissident Indonesia 84
96. Zheng Bijian Political scientist China 76
97. Kenichi Ohmae Management theorist Japan 68
98. Wang Jisi Foreign-policy analyst China 59
98. Kishore Mahbubani Author, diplomat Singapore 59
100. Shintaro Ishihara Politician, author Japan 57