if called upon to name the most important thinkers since the year 2000, assessed purely for their influence, with no comment on quality, I might list (working my way backward in time) Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Jordan Peterson (14), Peter Thiel (70), Yuval Noah Harari, Steven Pinker (110), Tyler Cowen (2), Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander, Slavoj Žižek, Andrew Sullivan (35), Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (10), Peter Singer, Samantha Power, my colleague Thomas Friedman … at now we’re back at the turn of the millennium. Religious thinkers? Well, Dawkins and Pinker and Kendi, of course — but okay, more exactly, perhaps James Martin, Rod Dreher (104), Charles Taylor, David Bentley Hart and Tim Keller. (In another ten years I might add a post-liberal Catholic, but not yet.)
Some of these writers are impressive; some less so. Many are journalists, in practice or in spirit — an important occupation, but maybe not the ideal one for generating great works. Will many of them adorn a Great Books curriculum in 2075, if such an antiquated thing exists? I’m doubtful.
The numbers in parentheses are the numbers that they were chosen in the Fantasy Intellectual Teams draft I held on Saturday. Douthat himself was the 44th pick. Among columnists, he was picked ahead of Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, David Brooks, Paul Krugman, and Peggy Noonan, but behind Megan McArdle.
Of course, he does not use quantitative scoring criteria. His idea of “influence” probably correlates best with my “meme” category.