Friday, February 15, 2008
I recently came across this UK magazine's survey of readers identifying the "top 100" public intellectuals from a couple of years ago. Since it was a UK-based survey, the list doesn't have the same kinds of parochial horizons the same exercise would generate in the US (so, e.g., Noam Chomsky, quite plausibly, is #1, and by a wide margin). Interestingly, two U.S. law professors did make the list: Larry Lessig at Stanford University came in at #40; and Martha Nussbaum at the University of Chicago came in at #53. If we cast the net a bit more widely, then we should also include the economist Jagdish Bhagwati (#42), a University Professor at Columbia University whose appointments include one in the Law School; and, of course, Judge Richard Posner (#32), who continues to teach part-time in the Law School at the University of Chicago. Among U.S. universities, Harvard had the most faculty on the list with nine (Amartya Sen, Steven Pinker, Samuel Huntington, Niall Ferguson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Larry Summers, Howard Gardner, Robert Putnam, Elaine Scarry), followed by Princeton University with four (Paul Krugman, Peter Singer, Bernard Lewis, Daniel Kahneman); University of Chicago with three (Richard Posner, Gary Becker, Martha Nussbaum); Columbia, MIT and UCLA with two each (at Columbia: Jeffrey Sachs and Jagdish Bhagwati; at MIT: Noam Chomsky and Neil Gernshenfeld; at UCLA: Jared Diamond and James Q. Wilson). Stanford had two at the time--Lessig and Richard Rorty, the latter of whom is now deceased. A handful of other U.S. faculty made the list: Daniel Dennett (Tufts University), Steven Weinberg (University of Texas, Austin); Paul Kennedy (Yale University); and Ali Mazrui (SUNY-Binghamton).
UPDATE: Reader Adam Tucker points out:
The list is a 1-100 ranking made by people voting on a longlist of 100 - so the names were chosen in advance. All the voters could do is change the order. This makes the "other possibilities" list below it even more interesting - whilst some of the names on that list are
laughable (Bono?!) I'd have thought that some (e.g. Friedman, Hawking and, lower down, Sen) merit a place on the proper list. It would be interesting to see what a free vote rather than a structured would have come up with.