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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 Sociology, for the years 1970 – 2020

Pierre Bourdieu
# 1
Pierre Bourdieu

1930 - 2002 (72 years)

#187 person's overall influence

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.

Jürgen Habermas
# 2
Jürgen Habermas

1929 - Present (92 years)

#106 person's overall influence

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.

Michel Foucault
# 3
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#26 person's overall influence

Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

Bruno Latour
# 4
Bruno Latour

1947 - Present (74 years)

#605 person's overall influence

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.

Robert K. Merton
# 5
Robert K. Merton

1910 - 2003 (93 years)

#325 person's overall influence

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.

Omar Lizardo
# 6
Omar Lizardo

1974 - Present (47 years)

#3931 person's overall influence

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.

Harrison White
# 7
Harrison White

1930 - Present (91 years)

#2095 person's overall influence

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.

Randall Collins
# 8
Randall Collins

1941 - Present (80 years)

#2742 person's overall influence

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.

Michael Burawoy
# 9
Michael Burawoy

1947 - Present (74 years)

#3921 person's overall influence

After graduating with a degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, Michael Burawoy went to Zambia to conduct research. While there, he earned his master’s degree from the University of Zambia. He went on to earn a Ph.D in sociology from the University of Chicago.

Mark S. Granovetter
# 10
Mark S. Granovetter

1943 - Present (78 years)

#1763 person's overall influence

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.

Peter L. Berger
# 11
Peter L. Berger

1929 - 2017 (88 years)

#347 person's overall influence

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.

Erving Goffman
# 12
Erving Goffman

1922 - 1982 (60 years)

#465 person's overall influence

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.

Immanuel Wallerstein
# 13
Immanuel Wallerstein

1930 - 2019 (89 years)

#1428 person's overall influence

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.

Stuart Hall
# 14
Stuart Hall

1932 - 2014 (82 years)

#1926 person's overall influence

Stuart McPhail Hall was a Jamaican-born British Marxist sociologist, cultural theorist and political activist. Hall, along with Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, was one of the founding figures of the school of thought that is now known as British Cultural Studies or The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies.

James Samuel Coleman
# 15
James Samuel Coleman

1926 - 1995 (69 years)

#1796 person's overall influence

James Samuel Coleman was an American sociologist, theorist, and empirical researcher, based chiefly at the University of Chicago.

Raewyn Connell
# 16
Raewyn Connell

1944 - Present (77 years)

#2535 person's overall influence

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.

Talcott Parsons
# 17
Talcott Parsons

1902 - 1979 (77 years)

#218 person's overall influence

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.

Niklas Luhmann
# 18
Niklas Luhmann

1927 - 1998 (71 years)

#674 person's overall influence

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.

# 19
Donald Black

1941 - Present (80 years)

#5796 person's overall influence

Donald Black is known as the founder of pure sociology, a unique theoretical approach devoid of psychology or even, really, people. He was born in 1941 and earned his Ph.D in sociology from the University of Michigan. He is also known for his Theory of Law and Social Control which attempts to explain differences in behavior as a function of sociological factors.

John Levi Martin
# 20
John Levi Martin

1964 - Present (57 years)

#8865 person's overall influence

John Levi Martin is the Florence Borchert Bartling Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. He graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in sociology and English. His undergraduate thesis, The Epistemlogy of Fundamentalism, received the Herbert Hyman prize for undergraduate sociology. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley.

Loïc Wacquant
# 21
Loïc Wacquant

1960 - Present (61 years)

#3895 person's overall influence

Loïc Wacquant is a professor of sociology and research associate for the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his Ph.D from the University of Chicago.

John Bellamy Foster
# 22
John Bellamy Foster

1953 - Present (68 years)

#4338 person's overall influence

John Bellamy Foster is the editor of Monthly Review and a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He was born in 1953 in Seattle, Washington. After earning his B.A. from Evergreen State College, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D from York University. He is a well-known scholar in Marxist theory, ecological crises, and the political economy of capitalism.

# 23
Thomas Luckmann

1927 - 2016 (89 years)

#1703 person's overall influence

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.

Peter Blau
# 24
Peter Blau

1918 - 2002 (84 years)

#2481 person's overall influence

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

Charles Tilly
# 25
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.

Harold Garfinkel
# 26
Harold Garfinkel

1917 - 2011 (94 years)

#3068 person's overall influence

Harold Garfinkel was an American sociologist, ethnomethodologist, and a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is known for establishing and developing ethnomethodology as a field of inquiry in sociology. He is probably best known for his classic book, Studies in Ethnomethodology, which was published in 1967, a collection of articles some of which had previously been published. Selections from unpublished materials were later published in two volumes: Seeing Sociologically and Ethnomethodology's Program. There was also a collection of 'studies of work' by his st...

Judith Butler
# 27
Judith Butler

1956 - Present (65 years)

#565 person's overall influence

Judith Butler is the Maxine Ellio Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. Butler earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy at Yale University in 1978, and her PhD at Yale in 1984. In addition to UC Berkeley, Butler has taught at Wesleyan University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and the University of Amsterdam.

Viviana Zelizer
# 28
Viviana Zelizer

1946 - Present (75 years)

#15190 person's overall influence

A specialist in culture and economic processes, Viviana A. Zelizer is Lloyd Cotsen ’50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She has published award-winning books on the development of life insurance, the changing value of children, the place of money in social life and the economics of intimacy. She has also studied topics ranging from economic ethics to consumption practices. A collection of her essays appears in Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy (2010). Her most recent book is Money Talks: Explaining How Money Really Works (2017) co-edited with Nina Bandelj and Freder

Ann Mische
# 29
Ann Mische

1965 - Present (56 years)

#21429 person's overall influence

Ann Mische is Professor of Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. She earned a B.A. in philosophy from Yale University and an M.A. and Ph.D in sociology from The New School for Social Research.

Ulrich Beck
# 30
Ulrich Beck

1944 - 2015 (71 years)

#12454 person's overall influence

Ulrich Beck was a well known German sociologist, and one of the most cited social scientists in the world during his lifetime. His work focused on questions of uncontrollability, ignorance and uncertainty in the modern age, and he coined the terms "risk society" and "second modernity" or "reflexive modernization". He also tried to overturn national perspectives that predominated in sociological investigations with a cosmopolitanism that acknowledges the interconnectedness of the modern world. He was a professor at the University of Munich and also held appointments at the Fondation Maison de...

Paul DiMaggio
# 31
Paul DiMaggio

1951 - Present (70 years)

#3444 person's overall influence

Paul Joseph DiMaggio is a professor of sociology at New York University and A. Barton Hepburn Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He earned his B.A. from Swarthmore College, and his M.A. and Ph.D in sociology from Harvard University.

Craig Calhoun
# 32
Craig Calhoun

1952 - Present (69 years)

#13648 person's overall influence

Craig Jackson Calhoun is an American sociologist, currently University Professor of Social Sciences at Arizona State University. An advocate of using social science to address issues of public concern, he was the Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science from September 2012 until September 2016, after which he became the first president of the Berggruen Institute. Prior to leading LSE, Calhoun led the Social Science Research Council, and was University Professor of the Social Sciences at New York University and Director of NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge. With Ric...

Zygmunt Bauman
# 33
Zygmunt Bauman

1925 - 2017 (92 years)

#3624 person's overall influence

Zygmunt Bauman was a Polish-British sociologist and philosopher. He was driven out of the Polish People's Republic during the 1968 Polish political crisis and forced to give up his Polish citizenship. He emigrated to Israel; three years later he moved to the United Kingdom. He resided in England from 1971, where he studied at the London School of Economics and became Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds, later Emeritus. Bauman was a social theorist, writing on issues as diverse as modernity and the Holocaust, postmodern consumerism and liquid modernity.

Jean Baudrillard
# 34
Jean Baudrillard

1929 - 2007 (78 years)

#1269 person's overall influence

Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist, philosopher and cultural theorist. He is best known for his analyses of media, contemporary culture, and technological communication, as well as his formulation of concepts such as simulation and hyperreality. He wrote about diverse subjects, including consumerism, gender relations, economics, social history, art, Western foreign policy, and popular culture. Among his best known works are Seduction , Simulacra and Simulation , America , and The Gulf War Did Not Take Place . His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and specifically post-st...

# 35
Anselm Strauss

1916 - 1996 (80 years)

#3305 person's overall influence

Anselm Leonard Strauss was an American sociologist professor at the University of California, San Francisco internationally known as a medical sociologist and as the developer of grounded theory, an innovative method of qualitative analysis widely used in sociology, nursing, education, social work, and organizational studies. He also wrote extensively on Chicago sociology/symbolic interactionism, sociology of work, social worlds/arenas theory, social psychology and urban imagery. He published over 30 books, chapters in over 30 other books, and over 70 journal articles.

Michel Maffesoli
# 36
Michel Maffesoli

1944 - Present (77 years)

#20161 person's overall influence

Michel Maffesoli is a French sociologist.

Barry Wellman
# 37
Barry Wellman

1942 - Present (79 years)

#3392 person's overall influence

Barry Wellman is a Canadian-American sociologist and is the co-director of the Toronto-based international NetLab Network. His areas of research are community sociology, the Internet, human-computer interaction and social structure, as manifested in social networks in communities and organizations. His overarching interest is in the paradigm shift from group-centered relations to networked individualism. He has written or co-authored more than 300 articles, chapters, reports and books. Wellman was a professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto for 46 years, from 1967 to 20

Saskia Sassen
# 38
Saskia Sassen

1945 - Present (76 years)

#5829 person's overall influence

Saskia Sassen is Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Centennial Visiting Professor for the London School of Economics. Born in 1947 in The Hague, Netherlands, she grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her father was a Nazi journalist and a member of the Waffen SS. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Notre Dame and an additional master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Poitiers.

# 39
Aldon Morris

1949 - Present (72 years)

#30686 person's overall influence

Aldon Douglas Morris is an African-American professor of sociology and an award-winning scholar, with interests including social movements, civil rights, and social inequality.

Pierpaolo Donati
# 40
Pierpaolo Donati

1946 - Present (75 years)

#30249 person's overall influence

Pierpaolo Donati is an Italian sociologist, born in 1946 in Burdio, Italy. Donati is best known for pioneering the field of relational sociology. Initially interested in physics, Donati switched his focus to social science, earning his MA from the University of Bologna in 1970. Afterward, Donati performed research at the University of Milan, did doctoral studies at University of Essex, and held the title of full professor of sociology at the University of Bologna from 1980 to 2016, teaching there and elsewhere. He is also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, since 1997.

Clifford Geertz
# 41
Clifford Geertz

1926 - 2006 (80 years)

#345 person's overall influence

Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Norbert Elias
# 42
Norbert Elias

1897 - 1990 (93 years)

#1925 person's overall influence

Norbert Elias was a German sociologist who later became a British citizen. He is especially famous for his theory of civilizing/decivilizing processes.

Mustafa Emirbayer
# 43
Mustafa Emirbayer

1950 - Present (71 years)

#34596 person's overall influence

Mustafa Emirbayer Is a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He graduated with his B.A. from the University of California, Davis and earned his M.A. and Ph.D from Harvard University.

Karl Popper
# 44
Karl Popper

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#45 person's overall influence

Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-born British philosopher, academic and social commentator.

Seymour Martin Lipset
# 45
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.

Raymond Boudon
# 46
Raymond Boudon

1934 - 2013 (79 years)

#10137 person's overall influence

Raymond Boudon was a sociologist, philosopher and Professor in the Paris-Sorbonne University.

Theda Skocpol
# 47
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.

# 48
David Riesman

1909 - 2002 (93 years)

#3852 person's overall influence

David Riesman was a sociologist, educator, and best-selling commentator on American society.

# 49
Peter Bearman

1956 - Present (65 years)

#18617 person's overall influence

Peter Bearman is the Jonathan R. Cole Professor of Social Science in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University and the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics. He was born in 1956 and earned his B.A. in sociology from Brown University before obtaining his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University.

# 50
Jeffrey C. Alexander

1947 - Present (74 years)

#26337 person's overall influence

Jeffrey Charles Alexander is an American sociologist, and one of the world's leading social theorists. He is the founding figure in the contemporary school of cultural sociology referred to as the "strong program".