Foreign Policy editor Joshua Keating is generous in referring to PULSE’s 20 Top Global Thinkers of 2009 list as ‘a welcome addition to the conversation‘. FP has certainly ignited a debate around its choices in its inaugural global thinkers list.
Keating misses our point, however, in part because he misreads our argument. It is clear from our post that we are referring specifically to the incongruity of having individuals such as Dick Cheney, General Petraeus, Larry Summers, Thomas Friedman, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salam Fayyad, The Kagans and Ahmed Rashid on a list of thinkers. We surmised that it may have to do with the fact that the main thrust of their work aligns with the US military and economic agenda worldwide. We could not have been referring to FP’s entire list, since, as Keating correctly notes, several of our choices overlap with FP’s, and there are others on the list that we actually respect and admire.
Unlike FP however, we endeavoured to place equal emphasis on ‘global’ and ‘thinker’. While most of our nominees are politically engaged — and politics does inform our choices — we placed a higher premium on their intellectual output. As followers of the Socratic tradition, we could never have chosen the aforementioned (or for that matter Gordon Brown and Michael Ignatieff), even if we agreed with their politics. To make it to our list, an individual had to have provided at least some evidence of thought.
Curiously, Keating mitigates his generosity by imputing allegations that we have not actually made. Nowhere in our post do we accuse FP of having a ‘hegemonic capitalist agenda’ (the word ‘capitalist’ does not appear once). While we welcome the fact that an establishment journal would highlight its commonality with a progressive one, we find it unfortunate that it would at the same time try to present a clichéd caricature of the leftist as a means of asserting its own seriousness by comparison.
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