Sunday, 13 December 2009

Neil's Top 100 Intellectuals

Dear everyone

Here's my attempt at compiling a list of the current top 100 intellectuals!! Do you agree with my listings? Have I overlooked anyone?

Noam Chomsky (Linguist, US, 72).
J├╝rgen Habermas (Social Theorist, German, 76)
Niklas Luhmann (Sociologist, German)
Karl Otto Apel (Philosopher, German)
Rem Koolhaas (Architect, Netherlands)
Umberto Eco (Semiotician, Italy)
Hayden White (Historian, US)
Philip Lacou-Labathe (Philosopher, France)
Robert Brandom (Philosopher, US)
Michael Dummett (Philosopher, UK)
Jean-Luc Marion (Theologian, US)
Regina Schwartz (Theorist, US)
Ian Hacking (Philosopher, UK)
Anthony Giddens (Social Theorist, UK)
Paul Rabinow (Anthroplogist/Theorist, US)
Manuel de Landa (Philosopher, US)
Serge Eisenstadt (Sociologist, Isreal)
Julia Kristeva (Philosopher/Theorist France/Bulgaria)
Luce Irigaray (Philosopher, Beligium)
Slavoj Zizek (Philosopher/Theorist, Slovenia)
Ulrich Beck (Sociologist, Germany)
Michael Hardt (Theorist, USA)
Antonio Negri (Political Theorist, Italy)
Richard Rorty (Philosopher, US)
Georgio Agamben (Philosopher, Italy)
G. Vattimo (Philosopher/Theorist, Italy)
Jean-Luc Nancy (Philosopher, France)
Jean Baudrillard (Theorist, France)
Jerome Bruner (Psychologist, US)
Bruno Latour (Social Theorist, France)
Stephen Shapin (Historian of Science, UK)
Nicholas Rose (Psychologist/Theorist UK)
Nancy Fraser (Social Theorist, US)
Richard Bernstein (Social Theorist, US)
Marshall Berman (Theorist, US)
Benedict Anderson (Social Theorist, UK)
Tom Nairn (Political Scientist, UK)
Charles Taylor (Philosopher, Canada)
Iris Marion Young (Political Theorist, US)
Stanley Cavell (Philosopher ,US)
Gaytri Chakrvorty Spivak (Theorist, India)
bell hooks (literary theorist, US)
Cornell West (philosopher, US)
Douglas Kellner (Theorist, US)
Frederick Jameson (Theorist US)
Carol Gilligan (Psychologist, US)
Theordore Roszack (Theorist US)
Helene Cixous (Theorist, France)
James Der Derian (Political Theorist, US)
Homi Bhabba (Theorist, UK)
Manuel Castells (Social Theorist, US)
David Harvey (Geographer, UK
Peter Berger (Sociologist, US)
Thomas Luckmann (Sociologist, US)
Alain Badiou (Philosopher, France)
Regis Debray (Theorist, France)
Sherry Turkle (Theorist, US)
M. Maffesoli (Social Theorist, France)
Marvin Minksy (Cognitive Scientist, US)
Seymour Papert (Cognitive Scientist, US)
Donna Haraway (Theorist, US)
John Searle (Philosopher, US)
Paul Gilroy (Theorist, UK)
Serge Moscovici (Psychologist, France)
Francis Fukuyama (Political Theorist, US)
Arthur Kroker (Theorist, US)
Daniel Bell (Sociologist, US)
Amartya Sen (Economist, US)
Joseph Sieglitz (Economist, US)
Bernard Stiegler (Theorist, France)
Daniel Dennett (Philosopher, US)
Paul Virilo (Social Theorist, France)
Hubert Dreyfus (Philosopher, US)
Zygmunt Bauman (Sociologist, UK)
Richard Kearney (Philosopher, Eire)
Martha Nussbaum (Political Theorist, US)
Andre Gorz (Political Theorist, France)
Paul Churchland (Cognitive Scientist, US)
Patricia Churchland (Cognitive Scientist, US)
Herbert Schiller (Political Theorist, US)
John Gray (Political Theorist, UK)
Saskia Sassen (Sociologist, US)
Stanley Fish (Philosopher, US)
Mike Davis (Geographer, US)
Richard Sennett (Sociologist, UK)
Judith Butler (Theorist, US)
Paul Rabinow (Anthroplogist, US)
Ernesto Laclau (Political Theorist, UK)
Chantal Mouffe (Political Theorist, Belgium)
Immanuel Wallestein (Political Theorist, US)

Neil Turnbull


  1. Richard Dawkins? His ill advised dogmatism would keep him off my *personal* top 100, but he has certainly had a pretty important impact on popular thought in recent times. I often see student profiles on Facebook where the 'religion' field reads 'Dawkins' or similar...

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  3. Is Stephen Fry really an 'intellectual'? I can't really see it. What serious intellectual work or project is he engaged in? He is 'clever', 'witty' and 'well informed' - but does he have original ideas and/or arguments about anything significant?

    Eagleton seems to me someone who is a good synthesiser of the complex ideas and arguments of others, but has he really produced original work in his own right? Is he a conceptual innovator? I like Eagleton, but he doesn't seem to have the stature of the individuals listed above. I may be wrong here, but he seemed to spend most of his academic career railing against the political perils of postmodernism. Hardly a criterion for inclusion in the 'top 100'!

    As for Dawkins - well, he may be a competent geneticist, but his general forays into philosophy and theology seem to fall somewhat short of the standard required to merit his inclusion in the top 100.

    So I would say 'no' to all three. But I am, of course, open to rational persuasion!

    Neil Turnbull

  4. Oh you wanted people whose thought and work merited their inclusion! Your choice of the 'best of' format warped my suggestion: you are breaking its rules, according to which the only people who can be included are those who have had a significant impact on popular culture (i.e. have been on the telly). The top spot must be reserved for The Shawshank Redemption or Bohemian Rhapsody (regardless of the theme of the list). The only permitted selection procedures are a revenue generating telephone vote by the general public or by z-list 'celebs' (whose careers are flagging and know that there only other chance of fame is a photo of their cellulite or an article about how their marriage is falling apart).

    Soon research council funding will be allocated in this way - all this stuff about the importance of the 'impact' of research is worrying...

  5. Point taken, I guess

    But there is a serious point to all this, and it has nothing to do with 'x-factoresque' popular plebicites.

    Imagine that you had to compile an anthology of the most important intellectual positions that defined the last century? Who/what would you include?

    The task here, it seems to me, is to provide exemplars of intellectual thought and life in an age when the very idea of an 'intellectual life' is in the process of being debased.

    So the 'top 100' format is not as frivolous as it may appear initially!

    Neil Turnbull

  6. My post was more intended to suggest how 'warped' *my* thinking must be for selecting Dawkins based purely on popular impact, than it was intended to criticise the concept of your list. I'm very much in favour of using the tools of the status quo against it!

  7. Apologies for getting the wrong end of the stick here Nick...

    On a similar theme, I guess we should say something about S.Cowell's recent idea for TV 'phone in referenda' a la 'x-factor'....

    Something tells me that we have seen the political future here....


  8. I do hope that isn't the political future, Neil, although I guess some would take the optimistic view that such methods as the forces of democratisation at work--which all depends on your point of view a la populism.

    As regards intellectuals, well this may be a difficult concept to pin down. The list (and, if I understand correctly, your rationale, Neil) suggests that intellectuals should be defined as those who have actually undertaken "academic work" in the narrow sense.

    But isn't another, albeit broader, conceptualisation of the intellectual one who is a deep thinker and whose thought is reflected in their work regardless of whether this has occurred within the Academy (or been accepted by it? In which case, I myself would have no problems including, for example, novelists, poets, playwrights, artists etc, those who operate within a wider and sometimes more influential context than the Academic realm.

    As for Stephen Fry, I tend to agree that he isn't really an intellectual considering that he doesn't have a 'body of work' (though he does project the public image of the intellectual and is interpreted as such by the public, I would have thought)

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  10. Honourable mentions for Jacques Ranciere, Pierre Hadot,Martha Nussbaum and Philip Petit.

  11. Regarding Ruth's observation about 'populism' and 'democracy' (if I am reading this correctly). 'Some would say', no doubt, that there is an essential link between the two. But the question is whether this idea needs to be dialectically contested.

    Hasn't the rise of populism coincided with the loss of certain basic - collective - freedoms, a massive rise in economic inequality and the idea that some ideas can and should no longer be thought?

    I don't think that philosophy can be ambivalent when faced with this reality!


  12. "As for Dawkins - well, he may be a competent geneticist"

    Yeah, he's not any sort of geneticist. He's a zoologist/evolutionary biologist. Tsk.