The Prospect/Foreign Policy list of 100 global public intellectuals suggested that the age of the great oppositional thinker was over, but Noam Chomsky's emphatic victory shows many remain nostalgic for itby David Herman / November 20, 2005 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2005 issue of Prospect Magazine
The two most striking things about this poll are the number of people who took part and the age of the winners. Over 20,000 people voted for their top five names from our longlist of 100, and they tended to reinforce the trends of the original list. More than half of the top 30 are based in North America. Europe, by contrast, is surprisingly under-represented—a cluster of well-known names in the top 20 (Eco, Havel, Habermas) but then it is a long way down to Kristeva (48) and Negri (50). The most striking absence is France—one name in the top 40, fewer than Iran or Peru.
There is not one woman in the top ten, and only three in the top 20. The big names of the left did well (Chomsky, Habermas, Hobsbawm) but there weren’t many of them. Scientists, literary critics, philosophers and psychologists all fared badly. And voters did not use the “bonus ball” to champion new faces. The top two names, Milton Friedman and Stephen Hawking, do not represent new strands of thought. (In fact, Friedman was specifically named in last month’s “criteria for inclusion”—along with other ancient greats like Solzhenitsyn—as an example of someone who had been deliberately left off the longlist on the grounds that they were no longer actively contributing to their discipline.)