26. V?clav Havel
55. Wole Soyinka
Forget the novelist-or-not spat; there are more important questions.
Analyse the way the people have been interviewed; what questions were asked; in verbal or written form; among people of what level of education; which access the people who answer have to objective press; how many languages they can read to compare things internationally. And a couple of dozen other factors need to be taken into account.
If this is a right-wing or a left-wing set-up, the people asking the questions will automatically gravitate towards certain preferences.
I am pretty well educated and have never heard of the first three on the list. Nor names 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 17, 24, 33, 44, 47, 50, 51, 52, 54. 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 63, 64, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 98. Should I have? Even when I've heard the name, I may know nothing about them.
How many of you can say, cross your heart and hope to die, that you've heard of these people or know anything about them? If not, why not?
Does this mean I alone am chronically Eurocentric, or that these people have made no impression on the minds of Europeans. If not, why not? Is it another plot by the media to exclude and humiliate the developing countries?
500,000 people sounds impressive. But it's vital to know who they are, where they come from and what their motivations are to give particular (not always truthful!) answers.
you don't know number two?? isn't that the nobel winner?
number one, is, as far as I know, a cult leader in a way, with a devoted following, these people always do good in this sort of thing, see the modern library top 100 reader's list with ayn rand first, second and ron hubbard third.
I admit I've only read a few things about that guy and they could be slanted, but it fits with my mistrust of religion, so there.
I'd say the list as a whole has a slight right-wing slant, but that's because I use left and right in a way that isn't applicable today. jingoism and racism can be found frequently on the left today, so it's more likely a left-wing slant.
I need to do something about my education. I had to look up 6 of the first 20. Of the last 20, probably way more. damn.
9 -- Author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim
17 -- Editor of Newsweek International
50 -- Renowned neurologist
57 -- Psychologist specializing in the development of language
68 -- Feminist philosopher, defender of civil rights for women, gays, and other groups
71 -- Famous mapper of a particular human genome: his own
94 -- Former director the National Institutes of Health, advocate for open access to scientific research
Mr. Dickens, I'd like to introduce you to edge.org. Edge, meet Mr. Dickens.
Really, it's not too hard to find capsule biographies. (yes that link is next to the list)
'Economist' (sometimes with a qualifier) seems the most prevalent description on the list (14), nudging out 'journalist' (11, including dual descriptions: Oz is one). But of course politician/political scientist/theorist/analyst etc are more numerous; it is Foreign Policy after all.
Interestingly, Havel is the only statesman. And Eco appears to be the least political amongst the novelists.
Last edited by nnyhav; 06-Jul-2008 at 01:13.
Of course you can find capsule biographies. My point was that I read a fair sprinkling of newspapers from Europe, and have never come across many of these people in passing. I don't read U.S. newspapers as much online, nor do I read papers from the Maghreb, Asia, Africa, and so on. I am not much interested in pure and applied science (including astrophysics, unless I'm translating a novel involving same), Islam (which I never took any notice of, up to a decade ago), feminist philosophy, and several other areas of reality. But I regard myself as reasonably educated, can read several languages, so potentially, have a much greater chance of stumbling upon new names than people who read, say, only USA Today or The Guardian for their outlook on life.
I'm not entering for a general knowledge quiz, like those pretty superficial ones we have on TV, where people know ever name under the sun, but only know one sentence-worth of facts about them.
The term "top 100 intellectuals" is a tall order. I cannot see, as always with competitions, how apples and oranges can be compared. This is yet another table of huge dimensions, based on some instant answers by 500,000 people worldwide, and totting up numbers.
I shall not sulk about who's on or off the list, as I regard the whole exercise as being one of these crazy things journos invent during the silly season to fill columns in the papers and blogs. The fact that a few writers have been dragged in is neither here nor there.
There are, of course, people whose names I instantly recognise, such as Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag and married to the Polish Foreign Minister; Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Orhan Pamuk, who appears to be the only Turkish writer the West cares about; Noam Chomsky, the linguist who became a political activist; Tariq Ramadan who is often interviewed on the BBC; Richard Dawkins, who hates God; scholar Joseph Ratzinger, who doesn't; etc.
But the time scale? This is another crucial factor. Are these people who are important right now, or have built up a reputation over years? For instance, a lot of what Fukuyama has said about the end of history has been shown to be as trendy as the theories of Slavoj Žižek. In what way is Rem Koolhaas an intellectual?
Another crucial question: how many of these intellectuals owe their fame to a spell spent at an English-speaking university? I would imagine that more than a fair percentage, wherever they come from originally, have connections to U.S., Canadian or British universities. And Lilia Shevtsova actually works for the Carnegie Endowment which, ... er, commissioned this survey.
Those of you who have the stamina, please count up how many of the 100 have taught at an American, Canadian or British university, or belong to an organisation housed in one of these countries, and add up the percentage. We already know that the USA is at present the only superpower, which is a good thing, but there are pitifully few people on that list from Europe, who have never had anything to do with American academia. There are certainly some: the Pope, Umberto Eco, Yegor Gaidar, V?clav Havel, Tariq Ramadan, Garry Kasparov, Alain Finkelkraut, and a few others.
My point is that this is basically an American project and tends to focus principally on American, or American educated, not European intellectuals. If France or Germany did a similar survey, I'm sure the answers would have a different slant, as the people they would ask would be different.
This is, as far as I can see, run by the Carnegie Endowment in the USA, a country whose newspapers have very little from Europe, unless it's been filtered by an English-speaking journalist, as opposed to letting the European speak for himself or herself in direct translation. In turn, Foreign Policy (whose foreign policy?) is a Carnegie Foundation publication.
Its history can be found at:
About - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
[Note: I wrote all the above before looking at the capsule biographies, which therefore did not influence what I wrote in any way.]
Last edited by Eric; 06-Jul-2008 at 12:13.
I did a quick survey from the capsule biographies as to which of the 100 had some direct connection with an English-speaking university or institute. The vast majority of these are universities in the States. The total I totted up was 68.
I've not included people living in Israel, India or Pakistan in this total, people who may never have taught in the States or Britain.
But my conclusion is none the less that this is an exercise in promoting U.S. foreign policy by other means. This is because I strongly suspect that the questionnaire was drafted in the English language, which means that those answering would automatically gravitate towards the USA (or Britain, Australia, Canada).
N.B. Unlike many people, I approve of the way the USA is trying to keep the world free from war, despite its bungling in some areas. But it is a bit of a con trick to set up an "objective" survey like this, which has methodological flaws. This is a covert exercise in patting American institutions on the back and saying "look how good we are, we invite foreigners over". Well, I'm sure that Germany, France, Italy, Spain and one or two countries where not everything is done in English also produce decent, well-educated and thoughtful intellectuals. It's just that we never hear about them. The status of the States as superpower should not be abused. Otherwise we get into the realm of self-righteousness.
Eric, this list is no different than People Magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive" issue -- it exists to generate discussion and debate and to promote the periodical that sponsored it.
In that light, I have no problem poking fun at it and not taking it all that seriously. The fact that somebody, somewhere is promoting intellectuals in a positive light is, to me, at least something to smile about. Too often in the US "intellectual" is a dirty word, right along with...well, that's perhaps too political for this blog. So yea! for intellectuals, and yea! for Foreign Policy for giving 100 of them 15 minutes of internet buzz.
Oh, and...Edge.org really is one of my favorite websites. Not to dabble in shameless promotion of other sites, but check out the World Question Center -- it's always thought-provoking reading.
Last edited by Irene Wilde; 06-Jul-2008 at 16:23. Reason: Posting on less than one cup of coffee
I've only heard of these few:
Mario Vargas Llosa
Pope Benedict XVI
It's a list, as useless, controversial and amusing as any other list. Happy for Jared Diamond, his Guns, Germs and Steel has affected the way I perceive the world. Hm, Fernando Savater? A guy who writes philosophy books for high school students? Really? Niall Ferguson is a fun choice, the man writes non-fiction books about alternate history. Orhan Pamuk over Chomsky? A reasonable novelist over the man who invented the generative grammar, universal grammar, the x-bar theory, which proposes language is an innate instinct and therefore challenges just about everything people thought they knew about humans since the Enlightenment; a man who's affected just about every area of human study. Snow is really that good?
This is why I love lists
Well, none of the novelists are USA or Canada, or of Brit origin for that matter ... Eric, the Guardian may have its problems, but not compared to USA Today (we color 4 pages, you color the rest! ok, old gibe, and they have improved, but still ...)
But I suspect that, beyond the tendency for a US English-language publication to know more about those with such connections, Europe's intellectuals are more engaged with European than global issues at the moment. Parochialism is a global phenomenon. That includes the fields of journalism and economics. Speaking of which, The Economist has a story on the Top 100 Global Institutions this week.
Me, I'm just disappointed by the waning influence of novelists, myself.
I'm waiting for the "Sexiest Intellectuals Alive!" list -- Maybe Salon will come up with it or The Huffington Post.
"Alex Vilenkin may have some controversial ideas about the nature of the universe, but his puppy dog eyes and dreamy smile are a Big Bang with us!"
Nnyhav, you say:
Forgive me if I'm taking your remark out of context, but I think Sarkozy has done more during his period in office than quite a few people. Whatever deals are done behind the scenes, it can hardly be claimed that France is hiding in the wine cellar. The FARC weren't operating in France. He's been to Israel and a few other places too. And he's the first French president for ages to be pro-USA....Europe's intellectuals are more engaged with European than global issues at the moment. Parochialism is a global phenomenon.
I buy one of several European newspapers on a random basis, so I can follow debates, or at least get an idea what people are worrying about in Europe. And given the demographic changes in Europe recently, these too are food for thought. Immigration, the war on terror, the environment & global warming, and fuel supplies are global problems. Many people in Europe are thinking about these issues. Remember that Russia has the fuel, and Europe has the knowhow and the investment. European newspapers have a much more global reach than many from the USA. It's just that people who can't read other languages never discover the debates till they appear in the English language. That is very limiting!
The blunt truth is that when it comes to killing nasty people, the Yanks and Brits do it best. The Germans agonise, because of their terrible record between 1933 and 1945. But Merkel (or Angular Murkle as they seem to say on British TV) is also wily enough. She is from East Germany, so she understands the Russians. The Poles oscillate between good moves and making a mess. But it was always so. The Swedes try to stay neutral and the Danes provoke Pakistanis, half a world a way, to riot about cartoons.
How much do average U.S. readers know about the subtleties of the many different countries that form the continent of Europe, and how much do they lump the whole continent together as if it were one monolingual, monopolitical entity?