Airmiles?

by Eric on April 23, 2008

There are all kinds of games you can play with this List of Top 100 Public Intellectuals, including Watch People’s Heads Explode! As a guest here I believe myself entitled to say, really? No Timberites? Tchah.

The stated criteria: “Candidates must be living and still active in public life. They must have shown distinction in their particular field as well as an ability to influence wider debate, often far beyond the borders of their own country.” The large number of Iraq-war supporters would seem to suggest “influence … far beyond the borders of their own country” hugely outweighs “distinction in their particular field.”

{ 27 comments }

1

abb1 04.23.08 at 1:58 pm

Okay, but still: David Petraeus, public intellectual?

2

fardels bear 04.23.08 at 2:11 pm

Pinker AND Dennett AND Wilson AND Dawkins? Damn, I miss Stephen J. Gould. Sigh.

3

Dr. Drang 04.23.08 at 2:14 pm

Bjørn Lomborg is listed as an environmentalist. Oh, those FP jackanapes!

4

Chris Hanretty 04.23.08 at 2:25 pm

Bit puzzled as to why Gianni Riotta (“journalist, political commentator”) should be on the list. Directing Rai’s TG1 is hardly an intellectual task. He looks wonkish enough, certainly. If they were looking for another Italian to put alongside Eco, what’s wrong with Alberto Alesina?

5

Alex 04.23.08 at 2:28 pm

Oh, it’s not that Charles Taylor.

6

Cryptic Ned 04.23.08 at 2:29 pm

Not the shoe?

7

Jacob Christensen 04.23.08 at 2:55 pm

@abb1: My thought too. Petraeus may be an important public figure, but “public intellectual”? Same for Lee Kuan Yew. When was the last time you saw any of them following the time-honoured French tradition of joining a demonstration?

As a political scientist I am of cause overjoyed by our dominance but it is of cause a major embarassment to FP that the entire CT roster wasn’t listed up-front. :-)

8

DC 04.23.08 at 3:07 pm

Gunter Grass and Adam Michnik are odd omissions from this sort of a thing.

9

John Meredith 04.23.08 at 3:10 pm

“The large number of Iraq-war supporters”

Really? At a quick glance there didn’t seem to be many to me.

10

John Meredith 04.23.08 at 3:11 pm

“Gunter Grass and Adam Michnik are odd omissions from this sort of a thing.”

Gunter Grass’s days of influence have been pretty much squelched by the autobiography, I should have thought.

11

Barry 04.23.08 at 3:45 pm

Eric: “The large number of Iraq-war supporters would seem to suggest “influence … far beyond the borders of their own country” hugely outweighs “distinction in their particular field.” “

Methinks that you’re assuming that their particular field isn’t ‘incitement to war’ and other evils. Once one allows that as a field, there are a lot more such persons.

12

ajay 04.23.08 at 4:23 pm

I thought that a public intellectual had to influence debate outside their own field. ie: Noam Chomsky wouldn’t have counted as a PI if he’d stuck to linguistics.
So Petraeus won’t count till he starts reviewing ballet or something.

“Failed to win the hearts and minds of the audience… the cast appeared unsure of their objectives, and did not move fast enough to secure key ground at stage left… during the balcony scene, Romeo and Juliet were emplaced too far apart for mutual support… Mercutio’s radius of operations was restricted by his heavy logistic tail.”

13

Doctor Slack 04.23.08 at 4:40 pm

There are a pretty significant number of people on that list whom I either don’t recognize or know only vaguely from their being regular quote-mongerers for the media. There are a few ridiculous names on there (Ignatieff, Llosa, Hitchens, Friedman), somewhat dubious ones (Huntington, Hirsi Ali, Ferguson, Fukuyama, Rushdie — what has he done in the “public intellectual” sphere lately beyond perpetually see-sawing in his personal relationship to Islam? — and to a lesser extent Habermas and Zizek) and some just plain confusing choices (Pope Benedict? Samantha Power?). But still some good choices left for all that.

14

will u. 04.23.08 at 5:11 pm

I gave my ballot the five seconds of serious consideration it deserved.

15

AlanM 04.23.08 at 5:14 pm

Gunter Grass’s days of influence have been pretty much squelched by the autobiography, I should have thought.

Only if you haven’t read it. Or don’t actually think, as opposed to renting off-the-shelf opinions.

16

Nick 04.23.08 at 6:19 pm

Five novelists (all of the hi-falutin’ international literary bestseller genre). No cineastes (Al Gore deson’t count). Given the relative prominence of art film and literary fiction as means of global public communication I’m puzzled.

17

Zippy the Comment Frog 04.23.08 at 6:20 pm

Follow up to 5: When Charles Taylor came to speak at the American Academy of Religion, all the promotional material listed him as “Charles Taylor, Ph.D.” — one of my friends suggested that they specified “the Charles Taylor with a Ph.D.” to distinguish him from the dictator of Liberia.

My favorite book spine is that of a secondary work on Taylor by someone named Smith — the spine just says, “Smith. Taylor.”

18

Nick 04.23.08 at 6:20 pm

Erm, ‘doesn’t count’ obviously . . .

19

Doctor Slack 04.23.08 at 7:29 pm

Given the relative prominence of art film and literary fiction as means of global public communication I’m puzzled.

Not that puzzling. Relative intellectual prestige, justified or not, counts and is different from raw movement of units. I know a lot of Stan Lee and Sam Raimi fans, for instance, but I don’t know a lot of them who would look to either one for intellectual guidance.

20

engels 04.23.08 at 7:40 pm

Oh God, not another one of these stupid lists…

21

Laleh 04.23.08 at 10:02 pm

The list is really about US punditry. Of the Middle Eastern choices, the only names chosen are those familiar to Americans, not the ones that actually matter. Nor the ones that are actually considered intellectuals (Qardawi? Amr Khaled?). And as always the preponderance of people having to do with Islam (either lionising it or demonising it) in the Arab world totally occludes all the amazing others who just don’t get any press in the US.

As for Ayan Hirsi Ali, or Rushdie, or Amos Oz, or Petreaus, oh my god. Really? Ali an intellectual? Don’t make me laugh!

22

abb1 04.23.08 at 10:14 pm

Well, they have Tariq Ramadan, who, I understand, is neither lionizing nor demonizing.

23

Dan Nexon 04.24.08 at 1:41 am

As someone pointed out to me: notice that its a bit heavy on people with some sort of connection to Foreign Policy. Indeed, many of the more puzzling people on the list seem to either have recently published in FP or are attached to Carnegie in some way.

24

Josh in Philly 04.24.08 at 7:05 am

Gladwell? Huh?

25

Dog's New Clothes 04.24.08 at 10:25 pm

Wow. One of my professors is on that list! It’s not so bad after all.

26

Chris 04.25.08 at 6:46 pm

Why aren’t Anne Coulter and Michael Moore on the list?

27

dave heasman 04.27.08 at 12:37 am

No Arsene Wenger?

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