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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 2000 – 2020

Michael Burawoy
# 1
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.

Omar Lizardo
# 2
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.

Jürgen Habermas
# 3
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.

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.

Harrison White
# 5
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.

Mark S. Granovetter
# 6
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
# 7
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.

John Levi Martin
# 8
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.

Craig Calhoun
# 9
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...

Judith Butler
# 10
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.

John Bellamy Foster
# 11
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.

# 12
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.

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.

Randall Collins
# 14
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.

Pierre Bourdieu
# 15
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.

# 16
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.

Pierpaolo Donati
# 17
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.

Charles Tilly
# 18
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.

Ann Mische
# 19
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.

Viviana Zelizer
# 20
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

Mustafa Emirbayer
# 21
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.

Barry Wellman
# 22
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

# 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.

Harold Garfinkel
# 24
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...

Sherry Turkle
# 25
Sherry Turkle

1948 - Present (73 years)

#13416 person's overall influence

Sherry Turkle is a noted expert on the interactions between humans and technology. She earned a B.A. in Social Studies from Radcliffe College and her Ph.D in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University. Her career has been spent examining the advancement of technologies and the changes in human social behavior that have resulted.

Michel Maffesoli
# 26
Michel Maffesoli

1944 - Present (77 years)

#20161 person's overall influence

Michel Maffesoli is a French sociologist.

# 27
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.

Stuart Hall
# 28
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.

Ulrich Beck
# 29
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...

Raewyn Connell
# 30
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.

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.

Saskia Sassen
# 32
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.

Loïc Wacquant
# 33
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.

Martina Löw
# 34
Martina Löw

1965 - Present (56 years)

#105388 person's overall influence

Martina Löw is a German sociologist.

Jean Baudrillard
# 35
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...

George Ritzer
# 36
George Ritzer

1940 - Present (81 years)

#25973 person's overall influence

George Ritzer is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. Born in New York City, New York in 1940, he is a sociologist studying modern and postmodern social theory, globalization, and consumption. He earned his B.A. in psychology from City College of New York, his M.B.A. from University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and a Ph.D in organizational behavior from Cornell University.

Diane Vaughan
# 37
Diane Vaughan

1950 - Present (71 years)

#63797 person's overall influence

Diane Vaughan is a professor at Columbia University. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Ohio State University and is best known for coining the term, “normalization of deviance.”

Robert K. Merton
# 38
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.

Laurent Thévenot
# 39
Laurent Thévenot

1949 - Present (72 years)

#38485 person's overall influence

Laurent Thévenot is an influential sociologist and professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, or, translated: School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences). Born in 1949, he is now considered one of the most influential thinkers in Economic Convention Theory and a fresh interpretation of French pragmatic sociology.

Zygmunt Bauman
# 40
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.

Richard Swedberg
# 41
Richard Swedberg

1948 - Present (73 years)

#10648 person's overall influence

Richard Swedberg is a sociologist from Sweden who specializes in economic sociology and social theory. He has earned a Ph.D from Boston College and a MM.L. (“Juris kandidat”) from Stockholm University.

Christian Smith
# 42
Christian Smith

1960 - Present (61 years)

#77171 person's overall influence

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame and a faculty fellow of the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies and the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies. He earned a B.A. in sociology from Gordon College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He went on to also study at the Harvard Divinity School for a year.

# 43
A. H. Halsey

1923 - 2014 (91 years)

#92307 person's overall influence

Albert Henry 'Chelly' Halsey was a British sociologist. He was Emeritus Professor of Social and Administrative Studies at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.

Patrik Aspers
# 44
Patrik Aspers

1970 - Present (51 years)

#62914 person's overall influence

Patrik Aspers is the chair of sociology at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and professor of sociology at Uppsala University. He earned a Ph.D. from Stockholm University, studying under Richard Swedburg and Harrison White.

Gary Becker
# 45
Gary Becker

1930 - 2014 (84 years)

#593 person's overall influence

Gary Stanley Becker was an American economist who received the 1992 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He was a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago, and was a leader of the third generation of the Chicago school of economics.

# 46
Neil Gross

1971 - Present (50 years)

#31181 person's overall influence

Neil Louis Gross is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and chair of the department of sociology at Colby College. He is also a visiting scholar of New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge. He has written several books on sociological and political topics, and also blogs for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Gross edited the American Sociological Association's journal Sociological Theory from 2009 to 2015. He previously taught at the University of Southern California, Harvard University, Princeton University, and at the University of British Columbia.

Eva Illouz
# 47
Eva Illouz

1961 - Present (60 years)

#56130 person's overall influence

Eva Illouz is a professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. She was the first woman president of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

Michel Callon
# 48
Michel Callon

1945 - Present (76 years)

#10812 person's overall influence

Michel Callon is a member of the Centre de sociologie de l’innovation and a professor of sociology at the École des mines de Paris.

# 49
Luc Boltanski

1940 - Present (81 years)

#36584 person's overall influence

Luc Boltanski is a French sociologist, Professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris, and founder of the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale, known as the leading figure in the new "pragmatic" school of French sociology. His work has significantly influenced sociology, political economy and social history.

Richard Dawkins
# 50
Richard Dawkins

1941 - Present (80 years)

#12 person's overall influence

Richard Dawkins is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and former University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science, but he is best known for his work in evolutionary biology. He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, earning a bachelor’s degree, M.A., and Ph.D.