Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Seven Indians among top 100 intellectuals

An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself, said French-Algerian writer-philosopher Albert Camus; turns out that someone is keeping track of intellectuals too.

The latest issue of the influential Foreign Policy magazine has identified the world's Top 100 "public intellectuals", in its second such exercise, awarding America - and the United States - with more cerebral heft than any other continent or country.

India comes out shining too. Besides familiar names such as Al Gore, Noam Chomsky, Francis Fukuyama, Umberto Eco, Lee Kuan Yew, the list has some half-dozen Indians: historian Ramachandra Guha, political psychologist Ashis Nandy, and environmentalist Sunita Narain, all of whom live in India, among them. ( Watch )

Four other Indians based outside India also make the list:

Economist-Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, journalist author Fareed Zakaria, novelist Salman Rushdie, and San Diego-based neuroscientist V S Ramachandran.

Neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh have one name each in the Top 100 - lawyer-politician Aitzaz Ahsan and microfinance guru Mohammed Yunus, while China has four.

Unmindful of the gibe by a former US vice-president Sprio Agnew that an intellectual is a man who doesn't know how to park a bike, Foreign Policy has parked for more than a third (36) of the worlds Top 100 eggheads in North America, most of them in the US.

Among them are two New York Times columnists, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman. For the record, Agnew, who coined several alliterative excesses such as "nattering nabobs of negativism" and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history," resigned from the vice-presidency following charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

No one accused him of being an intellectual although he once characterized a group of opponents as "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."

Foreign Policy also credits Europe, which has deep tradition of intellectualism, with 30 names in the Top 100 - less than North America - including Britons Niall Fergson, Ian Buruma and Christopher Hitchens. The Middle East accounts for 11, and Asia 12, which means India accounts for half of Asia's eggheads.

The list includes 17 political scientists, 15 economists, 12 each of philosophers, scientists, and journalists, eight artists and novelists, six each of historians, activists, and leaders, four religious heads, and two environmentalists.

In defining the criteria for its selection, Foreign Policy said the candidates, “among the worlds most sophisticated thinkers... 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."


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