Illustration by Miguel Porlan

World’s Top Thinkers 2022: the results

From philosophers on gender to anti-poverty campaigners, here’s who readers voted for in our annual list of top thinkers
September 8, 2022

The votes are in and the people have spoken. From a list of 50 top thinkers we presented in the summer issue, our readers chose the philosopher Kathleen Stock as the winner—and by a significant margin. Stock’s 2021 book Material Girls argues that feminists should be worried that the biological differences between men and women, and thus the sex-based rights of women, are being eroded by “trans activist thinking.” Last year she resigned from the University of Sussex after protests by activists about her gender-critical position, turning her into an emblem for open inquiry and free speech. You can read more about her argument, and the opposite point of view, in the debate she conducted with trans lawyer Robin White for our winter double issue.

Further down the list is Caroline Criado Perez, a feminist who has analysed with incontrovertible detail how we live in a world built for men. From crash test dummies to doctors’ PPE during the pandemic, the default for manufacturers is male. Already her work has had real-world impact in pressuring companies to do better. 

Just above her is anti-poverty campaigner Darren McGarvey, who beat fellow nominee Kendrick Lamar to become the first rapper to appear in our top 10. McGarvey’s new book, The Social Distance Between Us, lambasts the people who run the country for having little awareness of the desperation at the bottom end of the social scale. For McGarvey, brought up on the south side of Glasgow, everything in Britain comes down to class. (Look up his appearance on the Prospect podcast for some choice arguments—and language.)

Alaa Abdel Fattah and Anand Teltumbde are both prisoners of conscience. Abdel Fattah is a British-Egyptian who was involved in the 2011 uprisings in Cairo, and has since been highly critical of Sisi’s autocratic regime. He was imprisoned in December on charges of “broadcasting false news.” Currently on hunger strike, Abdel Fattah has been writing from prison on scraps of smuggled paper. Teltumbde, meanwhile, is a respected Dalit rights activist and thinker from India, who has criticised his government’s Hindu nationalist ideology.

Two different historical political conflicts have gained new resonance with current events. Lisa McGee wrote the comedy gem Derry Girls, about teenagers growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The show ended its run on Channel 4 this year in an era when the Irish border has become a flashpoint once more. Lea Ypi’s moving memoir Free told of her childhood in a communist Albania dominated by Russia. 

Looking to the future, philosopher William MacAskill argues in an upcoming work that we have a moral obligation to look to the future if we are to save ourselves from environmental disaster. (A review is upcoming.) The solution of another top thinker, Elon Musk, is simple: colonise Mars and use its resources to power our lifestyle—presumably until we leave it uninhabitable and move onto another planet. 

Lastly, a mea culpa: an editorial mishap in last issue’s thinkers’ list saw us mix up philosopher Olúfmi Táíwò, author of Against Decolonisation, with Olúfmi O Táíwò, author of Reconsidering Reparations, both published this year. For the record, we meant to nominate the former, though the latter was suggested to us as well. Kudos to the eagle-eyed voter who nominated Olúfmi Táíwò and then in the “who we missed” section suggested Olúfmi O Táíwò. In any case, apologies to both Olúfmis. Maybe they’ll both be on the list next year.