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Who are the most influential thinkers in world?

Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!

Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

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List of the most influential people in Political Science, for the years 1200 – 2020

Noam Chomsky
# 1
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (93 years)

#40 person's overall influence

Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at MIT as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

Thomas Hobbes
# 2
Thomas Hobbes

1588 - 1679 (91 years)

#73 person's overall influence

Thomas Hobbes , was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, in which he expounds an influential formulation of social contract theory. In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, jurisprudence, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, and ethics, as well as philosophy in general.

Martin Luther King Jr.
# 3
Martin Luther King Jr.

1929 - 1968 (39 years)

#71 person's overall influence

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

Gabriel Almond
# 4
Gabriel Almond

1911 - 2002 (91 years)

#7239 person's overall influence

Gabriel Abraham Almond was an American political scientist best known for his pioneering work on comparative politics, political development, and political culture.

Samuel P. Huntington
# 5
Samuel P. Huntington

1927 - 2008 (81 years)

#916 person's overall influence

Samuel Phillips Huntington was an American political scientist, adviser and academic. He spent more than half a century at Harvard University, where he was director of Harvard's Center for International Affairs and the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor.

David Easton
# 6
David Easton

1917 - 2014 (97 years)

#4822 person's overall influence

David Easton was a Canadian-born American political scientist. Easton, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, came to the United States in 1943. From 1947 to 1997, he served as a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

# 7
William H. Riker

1920 - 1993 (73 years)

#9586 person's overall influence

William Harrison Riker was an American political scientist who is prominent for applying game theory and mathematics to political science.

John Rawls
# 8
John Rawls

1921 - 2002 (81 years)

#388 person's overall influence

John Bordley Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls' work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."

Friedrich Hayek
# 9
Friedrich Hayek

1899 - 1992 (93 years)

#124 person's overall influence

Friedrich August von Hayek , often referred to by his initials F. A. Hayek, was an Austrian-British economist and philosopher who is best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and [...] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena". His account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals co-ordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement...

Alexis de Tocqueville
# 10
Alexis de Tocqueville

1805 - 1859 (54 years)

#505 person's overall influence

Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville , colloquially known as Tocqueville , was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, and historian. He is best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both, he analysed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

Bernard Grofman
# 11
Bernard Grofman

1944 - Present (77 years)

#14494 person's overall influence

Bernard Norman Grofman is the Jack W. Peltason Endowed Chair Distinguished Professor of Political Science and adjunct professor of economics for the University of California, Irvine. He earned a B.S. in mathematics, an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

# 12
Sidney Verba

1932 - 2019 (87 years)

#7774 person's overall influence

Sidney Verba was an American political scientist, librarian and library administrator. His academic interests were mainly American and comparative politics. He was the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University and also served Harvard as the director of the Harvard University Library from 1984 to 2007.

Harold Lasswell
# 13
Harold Lasswell

1902 - 1978 (76 years)

#1837 person's overall influence

Harold Dwight Lasswell was a leading American political scientist and communications theorist. He was a PhD student at the University of Chicago, and he was a professor of law at Yale University. He served as president of the American Political Science Association , of the American Society of International Law and of the World Academy of Art and Science .

Hannah Arendt
# 14
Hannah Arendt

1906 - 1975 (69 years)

#464 person's overall influence

Hannah Arendt , was a German-born American political philosopher. Her many books and articles have had a lasting influence on political theory and philosophy. Arendt is widely considered one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century.

# 15
Philip Converse

1928 - 2014 (86 years)

#20020 person's overall influence

Philip Ernest Converse was an American political scientist. He was a professor in political science and sociology at the University of Michigan who was a seminal figure in the field of public opinion, survey research, and quantitative social science. He has been described as "one of the most important social scientists of the 20th century."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
# 16
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

1712 - 1778 (66 years)

#59 person's overall influence

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.

John Mearsheimer
# 17
John Mearsheimer

1947 - Present (74 years)

#4813 person's overall influence

John Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. He served for five years as an officer of the U.S. Air Force after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point. While serving, he graduated from the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in International Relations. He went on to earn a Ph.D in government from Cornell University.

# 18
Allan Bloom

1930 - 1992 (62 years)

#1494 person's overall influence

Allan David Bloom was an American philosopher, classicist, and academician. He studied under David Grene, Leo Strauss, Richard McKeon, and Alexandre Kojève. He subsequently taught at Cornell University, the University of Toronto, Tel Aviv University, Yale University, École Normale Supérieure of Paris, and the University of Chicago. Bloom championed the idea of Great Books education and became famous for his criticism of contemporary American higher education, with his views being expressed in his bestselling 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind. Characterized as a conservative in the p

Herbert Baxter Adams
# 19
Herbert Baxter Adams

1850 - 1901 (51 years)

#5926 person's overall influence

Herbert Baxter Adams was an American educator and historian.

Seymour Martin Lipset
# 20
Seymour Martin Lipset

1922 - 2006 (84 years)

#3024 person's overall influence

Seymour Martin Lipset was an American sociologist. His major work was in the fields of political sociology, trade union organization, social stratification, public opinion, and the sociology of intellectual life. He also wrote extensively about the conditions for democracy in comparative perspective. A socialist in his early life, Lipset later moved to the right, and was often considered a neoconservative.

Francis Fukuyama
# 21
Francis Fukuyama

1952 - Present (69 years)

#1141 person's overall influence

Francis Fukuyama is director of Stanford University’s Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy and Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, as well as a senior fellow for the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Fukuyama earned a B.A. in classics from Cornell University and a Ph.D in political science from Harvard University. He has been involved with the Telluride Association, a high school outreach program, since he was an undergrad at Cornell University.

Frances Fox Piven
# 22
Frances Fox Piven

1932 - Present (89 years)

#15964 person's overall influence

Frances Fox Piven is an American professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, where she has taught since 1982.

Elinor Ostrom
# 23
Elinor Ostrom

1933 - 2012 (79 years)

#1419 person's overall influence

Elinor Claire "Lin" Ostrom was an American political economist whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy. In 2009, she was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her "analysis of economic governance, especially the commons", which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson. To date, she remains the first of only two women to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, the other being Esther Duflo.

Friedrich Engels
# 24
Friedrich Engels

1820 - 1895 (75 years)

#105 person's overall influence

Friedrich Engels , sometimes anglicised as Frederick Engels , was a German philosopher, historian, political scientist and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist, whose father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford and Barmen, Prussia .

Norman Finkelstein
# 25
Norman Finkelstein

1953 - Present (68 years)

#4810 person's overall influence

Norman Gary Finkelstein is an activist, author, professor and political science, specializing in the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Holocaust. He earned a B.A. at Binghamton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University. Both of Finkelstein’s parents survived the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust, as well as a series of concentration and labor camps.

Donald Green
# 26
Donald Green

1961 - Present (60 years)

#13019 person's overall influence

Donald Green is a political scientist at Columbia University who studies public opinion and political behavior. He earned a B.A. in political science and history at the University of California at Los Angeles, and an M.A. and Ph.D in political science at the University of California at Berkeley. He uses quantitative research methods, especially field experiments, to study voting, political party affiliation, campaign finance, prejudice, and mass media.

Hans Morgenthau
# 27
Hans Morgenthau

1904 - 1980 (76 years)

#4713 person's overall influence

Hans Joachim Morgenthau was one of the major twentieth-century figures in the study of international relations. Morgenthau's works belong to the tradition of realism in international relations theory, and he is usually considered, along with George F. Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the three leading American realists of the post-World War II period. Morgenthau made landmark contributions to international relations theory and the study of international law. His Politics Among Nations, first published in 1948, went through five editions during his lifetime.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
# 28
Zbigniew Brzezinski

1928 - 2017 (89 years)

#2333 person's overall influence

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski was a Polish-American diplomat and political scientist. He served as a counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966 to 1968 and was President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981. Brzezinski belonged to the realist school of international relations, standing in the geopolitical tradition of Halford Mackinder and Nicholas J. Spykman. Brzezinski was the primary organizer of The Trilateral Commission.

# 29
Eric Voegelin

1901 - 1985 (84 years)

#2106 person's overall influence

Eric Voegelin was a German-American political philosopher. He was born in Cologne, and educated in political science at the University of Vienna where he became an associate professor of political science in its law faculty. In 1938 he and his wife fled from the Nazi forces which had entered Vienna. They emigrated to the United States, where they became citizens in 1944. He spent most of his academic career at Louisiana State University, the University of Munich and the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

Robert D. Putnam
# 30
Robert D. Putnam

1941 - Present (80 years)

#4640 person's overall influence

Robert David Putnam is an American political scientist. He is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. Putnam developed the influential two-level game theory that assumes international agreements will only be successfully brokered if they also result in domestic benefits. His most famous work, Bowling Alone, argues that the United States has undergone an unprecedented collapse in civic, social, associational, and political life since the 1960s, with serious negative consequences. In March 2015, he published a book

W.E.B. Du Bois
# 31
W.E.B. Du Bois

1868 - 1963 (95 years)

#188 person's overall influence

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was an American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community, and after completing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

# 32
Anthony Downs

1930 - Present (91 years)

#8252 person's overall influence

Anthony Downs is an American economist specializing in public policy and public administration. He has been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., since 1977.

Stephen Walt
# 33
Stephen Walt

1955 - Present (66 years)

#7639 person's overall influence

Robert A. Dahl
# 34
Robert A. Dahl

1915 - 2014 (99 years)

#16651 person's overall influence

Robert Alan Dahl was a political theorist and Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He established the pluralist theory of democracy—in which political outcomes are enacted through competitive, if unequal, interest groups—and introduced "polyarchy" as a descriptor of actual democratic governance. An originator of "empirical theory" and known for advancing behavioralist characterizations of political power, Dahl's research focused on the nature of decision making in actual institutions, such as American cities. He is the most important scholar associated with the pluralis

Ralph Bunche
# 35
Ralph Bunche

1904 - 1971 (67 years)

#4514 person's overall influence

For his grandson, the General Secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization organization, see Ralph J. Bunche III

Robert Keohane
# 36
Robert Keohane

1941 - Present (80 years)

#19433 person's overall influence

Robert Owen Keohane is professor of political science at the Woodrow Wilson School for Princeton University. He earned a B.A. from Shimer College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He held a Guggenheim fellowship and fellowships with the National Humanities Center and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Howard Zinn
# 37
Howard Zinn

1922 - 2010 (88 years)

#1573 person's overall influence

Howard Zinn was an American historian, playwright, and socialist thinker. He was chair of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, and a political science professor at Boston University. Zinn wrote over 20 books, including his best-selling and influential A People's History of the United States. In 2007, he published a version of it for younger readers, A Young People's History of the United States.

Harvey Mansfield
# 38
Harvey Mansfield

1932 - Present (89 years)

#7803 person's overall influence

Harvey Claflin Mansfield Jr. is an American political philosopher. He is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1962. He has held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships and has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center; he also received the National Humanities Medal in 2004 and delivered the Jefferson Lecture in 2007. He is a Carol G. Simon Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is notable for his generally conservative stance on political issues in his writings.

Charles Tilly
# 39
Charles Tilly

1929 - 2008 (79 years)

#3117 person's overall influence

Charles Tilly was an American sociologist, political scientist, and historian who wrote on the relationship between politics and society. He was a professor of history, sociology, and social science at the University of Michigan from 1969 to 1984 before becoming the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University.

Liu Xiaobo
# 40
Liu Xiaobo

1955 - 2017 (62 years)

#3641 person's overall influence

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese writer, literary critic, human rights activist, philosopher and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who called for political reforms and was involved in campaigns to end communist one-party rule in China. He was incarcerated as a political prisoner in Jinzhou, Liaoning. On 26 June 2017, he was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with liver cancer, and subsequently died on 13 July 2017.

Jean Blondel
# 41
Jean Blondel

1929 - Present (92 years)

#12803 person's overall influence

Jean Blondel is Emeritus Professor at the European University Institute and visiting professor for the University of Siena. He has studied at the Institut d’Études Politiques of Paris and earned a B.Litt. from St. Antony’s College at Oxford. After his military service in France, he went on to study at Yale as an ACLS fellow.

# 42
Dwight Waldo

1913 - 2000 (87 years)

#33552 person's overall influence

Clifford Dwight Waldo was an American political scientist and is perhaps the defining figure in modern public administration. Waldo's career was often directed against a scientific/technical portrayal of bureaucracy and government that now suggests the term public management as opposed to public administration. Recognized the world over for his contributions to the theory of bureaucratic government, Waldo is only now taking his place as one of the most important political scientists of the last 100 years.

# 43
Glenn D. Paige

1929 - 2017 (88 years)

#42229 person's overall influence

Glenn Durland Paige was an American political scientist. He was Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Hawai‘i and Chair of the Governing Council of the Center for Global Nonkilling. Paige is known for developing the concept of nonkilling, his studies on political leadership, and the study of international politics from the decision-making perspective with a case study of President Harry S. Truman's decision to involve the United States in the Korean War.

Theodore J. Lowi
# 44
Theodore J. Lowi

1931 - 2017 (86 years)

#27464 person's overall influence

Theodore J. "Ted" Lowi was an American political scientist. He was the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions teaching in the Government Department at Cornell University. His area of research was the American government and public policy. He was a member of the core faculty of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.

Johan Galtung
# 45
Johan Galtung

1930 - Present (91 years)

#1638 person's overall influence

Johan Galtung is a principal founder of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, as well as a pioneering thought leader and scholar in the area of peace and conflict studies. He earned two Ph.Ds - a cand. real. in mathematics and a mag. art. in sociology - from the University of Oslo. Galtung is widely known for his scholarship in sociology, microhistory, anthropology, political science, economics, and history, and most notably, for his work in peace and conflict studies.

Theda Skocpol
# 46
Theda Skocpol

1947 - Present (74 years)

#6671 person's overall influence

Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. She earned a B.A. from Michigan State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D at Harvard University. She went on to become the first female sociologist to achieve tenure at Harvard University.

Albert Bushnell Hart
# 47
Albert Bushnell Hart

1854 - 1943 (89 years)

#28504 person's overall influence

Albert Bushnell Hart was an American historian, writer, and editor based at Harvard University. One of the first generation of professionally trained historians in the United States, a prolific author and editor of historical works, Albert Bushnell Hart became, as Samuel Eliot Morison described him, "The Grand Old Man" of American history, looking the part with his "patriarchal full beard and flowing moustaches."

Christopher Hitchens
# 48
Christopher Hitchens

1949 - 2011 (62 years)

#553 person's overall influence

Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English intellectual, polemicist, and socio-political critic who expressed himself as an author, orator, essayist, journalist, and columnist. Hitchens was the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of over 30 books, including five collections of essays on culture, politics, and literature.

# 49
Paula D. McClain

1950 - Present (71 years)

#38806 person's overall influence

Paula Denice McClain , is a professor of political science, public policy, and African and African American Studies at Duke University and is a widely quoted expert on racism and race relations. Her research focuses primarily on racial minority-group politics and urban politics. She is co-director of Duke's Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences, and director of the American Political Science Association's Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, which is hosted by Duke and funded by the National Science Foundation and Duke.

Samantha Power
# 50
Samantha Power

1970 - Present (51 years)

#7867 person's overall influence

Samantha Power is director of the new International Peace and Security Project at Harvard Kennedy School, member of the Board of Directors at the International Refugee Assistance Project, and joint faculty for Harvard’s Law School and Kennedy School. She earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard University. It is hard to overstate Samantha Power’s influence on global affairs.