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 …
1858 - 1917 (59 years)
David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline of sociology and—with Karl Marx and Max Weber —is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science.
1818 - 1883 (65 years)
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet
1858 - 1918 (60 years)
Georg Simmel was a German sociologist, philosopher, and critic.
1902 - 1979 (77 years)
Talcott Parsons was an American sociologist of the classical tradition, best known for his social action theory and structural functionalism. Parsons is considered one of the most influential figures in sociology in the 20th century. After earning a PhD in economics, he served on the faculty at Harvard University from 1927 to 1929. In 1930, he was among the first professors in its new sociology department. Later, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Social Relations at Harvard.
1820 - 1903 (83 years)
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist famous for his theory of social Darwinism whereby superior physical force shapes history. Spencer originated the expression "survival of the fittest", which he coined in Principles of Biology after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The term strongly suggests natural selection, yet Spencer saw evolution as extending into realms of sociology and ethics, so he also supported Lamarckism.
1926 - 1984 (58 years)
Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.
1910 - 2003 (93 years)
Robert King Merton was an American sociologist who is considered a founding father of modern sociology, and a major contributor to the subfield of criminology. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the field and for having founded the sociology of science.
1930 - 2002 (72 years)
Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist, philosopher and public intellectual. Bourdieu's major contributions to the sociology of education, the theory of sociology, and sociology of aesthetics have achieved wide influence in several related academic fields , popular culture, and the arts. During his academic career he was primarily associated with the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris and the Collège de France.
1929 - Present (92 years)
Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher mostly associated with the influential Frankurt School in Germany, part of the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt, and historically an important center for research on social theory and critical philosophy. Habermas, now 90, earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Bonn in 1954. Habermas is a famed philosopher who has taught a number of influential philosophers, including Hans Joas at the University of Chicago.
1855 - 1936 (81 years)
Ferdinand Tönnies was a German sociologist, economist and philosopher. He was a major contributor to sociological theory and field studies, best known for his distinction between two types of social groups, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft . He co-founded the German Society for Sociology alongside Max Weber and Georg Simmel and many other founders. He was president of the society from 1909 to 1934, after which he was ousted for having criticized the Nazis. Tönnies was considered the first German sociologist proper, published over 900 works and contributed to many areas of sociology and philosoph...
1798 - 1857 (59 years)
Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte was a French philosopher and writer who formulated the doctrine of positivism. He is often regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term. Comte's ideas are also seen as fundamental to thinking of sociology as an independent scientific discipline.
1863 - 1931 (68 years)
George Herbert Mead was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatistss. He is regarded as one of the founders of symbolic interactionism and of what has come to be referred to as the Chicago sociological tradition.
1864 - 1920 (56 years)
Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded today as one of the most important theorists on the development of modern Western society. His ideas would profoundly influence social theory and social research.
1922 - 1982 (60 years)
Erving Goffman was a Canadian-born sociologist, social psychologist, and writer, considered by some "the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century". In 2007 The Times Higher Education Guide listed him as the sixth most-cited author of books in the humanities and social sciences, behind Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Anthony Giddens, and ahead of Jürgen Habermas.
1929 - 2017 (88 years)
Peter Ludwig Berger was an Austrian-born American sociologist and Protestant theologian. Berger became known for his work in the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of religion, study of modernization, and theoretical contributions to sociological theory.
1901 - 1976 (75 years)
Paul Felix Lazarsfeld was an Austrian-American sociologist. The founder of Columbia University's Bureau of Applied Social Research, he exerted influence over the techniques and the organization of social research. "It is not so much that he was an American sociologist," one colleague said of him after his death, "as it was that he determined what American sociology would be." Lazarsfeld said that his goal was "to produce Paul Lazarsfelds." The two main accomplishments he is associated with can be analyzed within two lenses of analysis: research institutes, methodology, as well as his research
1893 - 1947 (54 years)
Karl Mannheim was an influential German sociologist during the first half of the 20th century. He is a key figure in classical sociology, as well as one of the founders of the sociology of knowledge. Mannheim is best known for his book Ideology and Utopia , in which he distinguishes between partial and total ideologies, the latter representing comprehensive worldviews distinctive to particular social groups, and also between ideologies that provide outdated support for existing social arrangements, and utopias, which look to the future and threaten to transform a society.
1840 - 1910 (70 years)
William Graham Sumner was a classical liberal American social scientist. He taught social sciences at Yale, where he held the nation's first professorship in sociology. He was one of the most influential teachers at Yale or any other major school. Sumner wrote widely within the social sciences, with numerous books and essays on American history, economic history, political theory, sociology, and anthropology. He supported laissez-faire economics, free markets, and the gold standard. He adopted the term "ethnocentrism" to identify the roots of imperialism, which he strongly opposed, and as a s
1916 - 1962 (46 years)
Charles Wright Mills was an American sociologist, and a professor of sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962. Mills was published widely in popular and intellectual journals. He is remembered for several books, such as The Power Elite, which introduced that term and describes the relationships and class alliances among the US political, military, and economic elites; White Collar: The American Middle Classes, on the American middle class; and The Sociological Imagination, which presents a model of analysis for the interdependence of subjective experiences within a p...
1903 - 1969 (66 years)
Theodor W. Adorno was a German philosopher, sociologist, psychologist, musicologist, and composer known for his critical theory of society.
1848 - 1923 (75 years)
Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher. He made several important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices. He was also responsible for popularising the use of the term "elite" in social analysis.
1857 - 1929 (72 years)
Thorstein Bunde Veblen was an American economist and sociologist, who during his lifetime emerged as a well-known critic of capitalism.
1332 - 1406 (74 years)
Ibn Khaldun was an Arab scholar of Islam, social scientist and historian who has been described as the father of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography. Niccolò Machiavelli of the Renaissance and the 19th-century European scholars widely acknowledged the significance of his works and considered Ibn Khaldun to be one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.
1927 - 1998 (71 years)
Niklas Luhmann was a German sociologist, philosopher of social science, and a prominent thinker in systems theory, who is considered one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century.
1820 - 1895 (75 years)
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 .
1926 - 1995 (69 years)
James Samuel Coleman was an American sociologist, theorist, and empirical researcher, based chiefly at the University of Chicago.
1930 - Present (91 years)
Harrison White is a highly regarded sociologist, currently the emeritus Giddings Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. He was born in Washington, D.C. in 1930. A precocious student, he began studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at only 15 years of age. By the age of 25, he had earned his first Ph.D, in theoretical physics. He then went on to earn a second Ph.D in Sociology from Princeton University.
1927 - 2016 (89 years)
Thomas Luckmann was an American-Austrian sociologist of German and Slovene origin who taught mainly in Germany. His contributions were central to studies in sociology of communication, sociology of knowledge, sociology of religion, and the philosophy of science.
1947 - Present (74 years)
Bruno Latour is an anthropologist, philosopher, and sociologist. He earned his Ph.D from the University of Tours. Soon after graduating, he became interested in anthropology, and set out on a study of race and decolonization in Ivory Coast.
1882 - 1958 (76 years)
Florian Witold Znaniecki was a Polish philosopher and sociologist who taught and wrote in Poland and in the United States. Over the course of his work he shifted his focus from philosophy to sociology. He remains a major figure in the history of Polish and American sociology; the founder of Polish academic sociology, and of an entire school of thought in sociology. He won international renown as co-author, with William I. Thomas, of the study, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America , which is considered the foundation of modern empirical sociology. He also made major contributions to sociol...
1859 - 1952 (93 years)
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He is regarded as one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.
1857 - 1913 (56 years)
Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist, semiotician and philosopher. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in both linguistics and semiotics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the founders of 20th-century linguistics and one of two major founders of semiotics, or semiology, as Saussure called it.
1868 - 1963 (95 years)
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.
1833 - 1911 (78 years)
Wilhelm Dilthey was a German historian, psychologist, sociologist, and hermeneutic philosopher, who held G. W. F. Hegel's Chair in Philosophy at the University of Berlin. As a polymathic philosopher, working in a modern research university, Dilthey's research interests revolved around questions of scientific methodology, historical evidence and history's status as a science. He could be considered an empiricist, in contrast to the idealism prevalent in Germany at the time, but his account of what constitutes the empirical and experiential differs from British empiricism and positivism in it...
1918 - 2002 (84 years)
Peter Michael Blau was an American sociologist and theorist. Born in Vienna, Austria, he immigrated to the United States in 1939. He completed his PhD doctoral thesis with Robert K. Merton at Columbia University in 1952, laying an early theory for the dynamics of bureaucracy. The next year, he was offered a professorship at the University of Chicago, where he taught from 1953 to 1970. He also taught as Pitt Professor at Cambridge University in Great Britain, as a senior fellow at King's College, and as a Distinguished Honorary professor at Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences which he helped to
1943 - Present (78 years)
Mark Sanford Granovetter is a professor at Stanford University. He is a prominent sociologist who earned an A.B. in history at Princeton University and a Ph.D in sociology from Harvard University.
1892 - 1940 (48 years)
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism. He was associated with the Frankfurt School, and also maintained formative friendships with thinkers such as playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem. He was also related to German political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt through her fir...
1802 - 1876 (74 years)
Harriet Martineau was a British social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist.
1941 - Present (80 years)
Randall Collins is a contemporary social theorist focused on the sociology of intellectuals, politics, and economic change. He earned his B.A. in psychology from Harvard University, under the instruction of Talcott Parsons. He graduated from Stanford University with an M.A. before transferring to University of California, Berkeley to earn an M.A. and Ph.D in sociology.
1930 - 2019 (89 years)
Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein was an American sociologist and economic historian. He is perhaps best known for his development of the general approach in sociology which led to the emergence of his world-systems approach. He was a Senior Research Scholar at Yale University from 2000 until his death in 2019, and published bimonthly syndicated commentaries through Agence Global on world affairs from October 1998 to July 2019.
1864 - 1929 (65 years)
Charles Horton Cooley was an American sociologist and the son of Michigan Supreme Court Judge Thomas M. Cooley. He studied and went on to teach economics and sociology at the University of Michigan, was a founding member of the American Sociological Association in 1905 and became its eighth president in 1918. He is perhaps best known for his concept of the looking-glass self, which is the concept that a person's self grows out of society's interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. Cooley's health began to deteriorate in 1928. He was diagnosed with an unidentified form of cance...
1902 - 1994 (92 years)
Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-born British philosopher, academic and social commentator.
1863 - 1941 (78 years)
Werner Sombart was a German economist and sociologist, the head of the "Youngest Historical School" and one of the leading Continental European social scientists during the first quarter of the 20th century. The term late capitalism is accredited to him. The concept of creative destruction associated with capitalism is also of his coinage. His magnum opus was Der moderne Kapitalismus. It was published in 3 volumes from 1902 through 1927. In Kapitalismus he described four stages in the development of capitalism from its earliest iteration as it evolved out of feudalism, which he called proto-c...
1894 - 1965 (71 years)
Georges Gurvitch was a Russian-born French sociologist and jurist. One of the leading sociologists of his times, he was a specialist of the sociology of knowledge. In 1944 he founded the journal Cahiers internationaux de Sociologie. He held a chair in sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris. An outspoken advocate of Algerian decolonization, Gurvitch and his wife were the victim of terrorist attack by the far-right nationalist group, L'O.A.S on June 22, 1962. Their apartment was destroyed by a bomb, and they took refuge for a time at the house of painter Marc Chagall.
1944 - Present (77 years)
A sociologist and intellectual of the Australian New Left, Raewyn Connell was born in Sydney, Australia in 1944. She earned a B.A. at the University of Melbourne and a Ph.D from the University of Sydney.
1895 - 1973 (78 years)
Max Horkheimer was a German philosopher and sociologist who was famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the Frankfurt School of social research. Horkheimer addressed authoritarianism, militarism, economic disruption, environmental crisis, and the poverty of mass culture using the philosophy of history as a framework. This became the foundation of critical theory. His most important works include Eclipse of Reason , Between Philosophy and Social Science and, in collaboration with Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment . Through the Frankfurt School, Horkheimer planned, suppo...
1897 - 1990 (93 years)
Norbert Elias was a German sociologist who later became a British citizen. He is especially famous for his theory of civilizing/decivilizing processes.
1862 - 1922 (60 years)
Eugen Ehrlich was an Austrian legal scholar and sociologist of law. He is widely regarded as one of the primary founders of the modern field of sociology of law.
1884 - 1942 (58 years)
Bronisław Kasper Malinowski was an anthropologist whose writings on ethnography, social theory, and field research were a lasting influence on the discipline of anthropology.
1974 - Present (47 years)
Omar Lizardo is co-editor of the American Sociological Review and the LeRoy Neiman Term Chair Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has concurrently served as an external member of the Centre for the Critical Study of Global Power and Politics. He was born in 1974 in New York City, New York. After earning his B.A. at Brooklyn College, he went on to earn a Ph.D from the University of Arizona.