81. PATRICE MARTIN, JOCELYN WYATT
For redesigning the war on poverty.
Directors, IDEO.org | San Francisco
The design world has long been preoccupied with dreaming up ever sleeker cars, laptops, smartphones, and even kitchen gadgets. But Patrice Martin and Jocelyn Wyatt are at the forefront of a hip new field fashioning decidedly less glamorous — if all the more consequential — systems and devices aimed not at the world’s yuppies but at those left out of the design revolution.
Martin is creative director and Wyatt executive director of IDEO.org, a spinoff of the design firm IDEO that brings engineering and marketing innovations to poor communities throughout the world. The idea: Put Silicon Valley’s brains and money toward tackling development challenges from sanitation to agriculture, financial services to gender equality. In Kenya, where only 61 percent of the population has access to clean water, IDEO.org came up with a subscription home-delivery system — designing everything from the shape and look of the water containers to a stylish logo to help market the service, now being piloted in Nairobi. “The solutions that we come up with, we really try to make tangible,” Wyatt explained. Part of the goal, she says, is “storytelling” — offering simple, visual explanations of their new designs, whether it’s an in-home toilet system in Ghana or kitchen accessories to make Tanzanians’ cookstoves easier to use.
Wyatt, a development expert, is the business brains behind IDEO.org, and Martin is the artist. Together, they’re turning Silicon Valley’s eye for elegance toward the needs of the poor. The wealthy have Apple iPads to handle their information overload and Herman Miller ergonomic chairs for their aching backs. Why not apply design thinking — which Wyatt calls “inherently optimistic, constructive, and experiential” — to the world’s messier problems too?
82. ROBERT D. KAPLAN
For putting geography back on the map.
Chief geopolitical analyst, Stratfor | Stockbridge, Mass.
Brutal dictators, sectarian divisions, political repression. These are among the messy and unpredictable causes oft cited for modern-day conflicts. Robert D. Kaplan reminds us that other, more elemental factors are still often at play: mountains, rivers, even soil types. As he writes in his ambitious new book, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, topography and borders (or lack thereof) are inseparable from geopolitics — from the “utterly porous” frontier fatefully linking troubled Afghanistan and Pakistan to the vast natural resources spanning China and Russia, whose proximity “commands a perennially tense relationship.”
In 1993, Kaplan, then a globe-trotting Atlantic correspondent, skyrocketed to fame when President Bill Clinton reportedly read his gloomy third book, Balkan Ghosts. (Presidential aides said it helped convince Clinton against initially intervening in the Balkans.) Flash forward 17 years and 11 more books. Kaplan predicted in his 2010 book, Monsoon, that the Indian Ocean would “demographically and strategically be a hub of the twenty-first-century world,” a view that caught the attention of Barack Obama’s administration as it weighed a strategic “pivot” to Asia and one that looks more and more ahead of the curve as global power continues to shift from northern landmasses to southern seas.
Now, in The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan synthesizes his canon of geographic writings to show how landscapes and climates still shape our world. He links America’s failures in the Iraq war (which he initially backed) to a misunderstanding of Iraq’s desert landscape and “terrain-specific” militias, and he argues it’s no coincidence that last year’s Arab democracy protests began in one of the North African countries closest to Europe. Most controversial (at least among the “liberal humanists,” whom, Kaplan warns, he will make “profoundly uneasy”) is his revival of early 20th-century geographers like Halford Mackinder, whose theory that control of Central Asia “is the pivot on which the fate of great world empires rests” was infamously adopted and distorted by the Nazis to justify their idea of Lebensraum. Kaplan’s book is not only the definitive account of geography in modern history, but the most convincing argument in recent memory for its centrality in foreign policy today.
83. KAI-FU LEE
For building the new Chinese Internet.
CEO and chairman, Innovation Works | China
Despite growing into the world’s second-largest economy in 2011, China is still most often dismissed as a manufacturer rather than an innovator, a borrower rather than a creator. The man most likely to guarantee that China becomes a pioneer and not merely a pirate is Kai-Fu Lee, the Taiwanese-American former head of Google China and a tech guru who manages China’s most prominent venture-capital fund and whose koan-like pronouncements on everything from start-ups to sports are eagerly lapped up by his millions of online followers.
In an effort to replicate the successes of Silicon Valley, Lee has raised more than $600 million and invested in more than 50 companies since he started his firm, Innovation Works, in 2009; he also hosts educational programs and incubators for promising Chinese entrepreneurs. His companies include Zhihu, a question-and-answer-based “social knowledge network”; Wonderpod, which helps users sync their mobile and PC content; and Nevel, a cloud-based service that optimizes websites while helping to protect them from security breaches. With more than 33 million followers combined on China’s two most popular microblogging platforms, Lee is also a real-world celebrity.
In an article he published on his LinkedIn page in October, Lee named China’s narrowly focused school curriculum and the risk-averse nature of Chinese students, as well as the country’s chaotic Internet environment, among the reasons China hasn’t yet produced its own Mark Zuckerberg. That may be why he has also started a popular education website encouraging Chinese students to think more creatively. Although none of his companies has exploded yet, Lee’s ultimate contribution may be more fundamental: laying both the intellectual and financial groundwork for a revolution in the world’s largest online community.
84. BETH NOVECK
For demanding open government, then creating it.
Law professor | New York
When U.S. President Barack Obama issued a memorandum on his first full day in office to make government more transparent and open, it was no coincidence he tapped Beth Noveck to lead the unprecedented initiative. Noveck, an open-government pioneer who made a cause of crowdsourcing experts to help the overloaded U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review all those innovative patent applications, not only took the job, but she used it to draft open-government rules for federal agencies with input from Internet users and launch data.gov, which, to date, has published nearly 400,000 government data sets that fuel roughly 1,500 apps on everything from product recalls to national obesity trends. Her goal, she said in an interview, was sweeping: to “use new technology to hard-wire this kind of reform and accountability into the culture of government so that it can’t be undone in the next administration.”
Now back in academia, Noveck continues to experiment with how data and technology can revolutionize democracy. She has advised British Prime Minister David Cameron on open government (“Beth literally wrote the book, Wiki Government, on how policymaking needs to change in the Internet age,” George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, noted in announcing the hire), founded a “do tank” that has developed ideas like virtual town-hall forums, and prototyped OrgPedia, a Wikipedia-esque platform for data on corporations.
Open government isn’t built in a day, or one presidential term, for that matter. But if the initiatives she has set in motion — from the National Archives dashboard for citizen archivists to the Department of Health and Human Services website for comparing insurance options — are any indication, Noveck has arguably done more than anyone to lay the foundations for a Washington that feels less like a cloistered village and more like an online public square.
85. RADOSLAW SIKORSKI
For telling the truth, even when it’s not diplomatic.
Foreign minister | Poland
As the only country in the European Union that never went into recession, Poland has a unique vantage point on Europe’s economic woes. And Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has taken up the mission of delivering hard truths to governments that need to hear it.
In a speech late last year, Sikorski shocked his Berlin audience by saying, “I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear its inactivity” — a near-historic statement given the long past enmity between the two countries. In an op-ed, he described the prospect of a eurozone breakup as a “crisis of apocalyptic proportions” and demanded that Germany, as one of the prime beneficiaries of European integration, take greater action to help the rest of the continent escape the crisis. In September, Sikorski turned up the pressure on Britain, demanding that David Cameron’s government take a greater interest in European leadership. “The EU is an English-speaking power. The single market was a British idea,” he said. “You could, if only you wished, lead Europe’s defense policy. But if you refuse, please don’t expect us to help you wreck or paralyze the EU.”
A onetime journalist married to Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, Sikorski is a staunch advocate of transatlantic cooperation to tackle security threats — particularly an increasingly belligerent Russia. Although he has credited Poland’s own 2007 “reset” with Russia with paving the way for the policy of Barack Obama’s administration, Sikorski now warns of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ever-creeping authoritarianism. Nor is Sikorski, who has close ties to Washington hawks, always impressed with the current occupant of the Oval Office: In May, when Obama made an offhand reference to a “Polish death camp,” rather than calling it a Nazi death camp located in Poland, Sikorski tweeted that the remark was evidence of “ignorance and incompetence.”
86. PANKAJ MISHRA
For charting the intellectual rise of the East — without the West.
Writer | Britain
For Americans, world events inevitably come colored through a Western prism, whether it’s believing that the American ideal of democracy inspired the Arab Spring or that China’s economy will stall without opening more to the West. And that’s not surprising: The West dominated the 20th century, and today nearly every society “seems at least partially Westernized, or aspiring towards a form of Western modernity,” as Pankaj Mishra writes in his provocative 2012 book, From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia. But Mishra reminds us, “there was a time when the West merely denoted a geographical region, and other peoples unselfconsciously assumed a universal order centered in their values.”
Mishra, an Indian-born novelist and essayist, offers the rare ability to write both knowledgeably and critically about the continent of his birth — and for a largely Western audience. At his day job, he pens columns for Bloomberg View on Asia’s shifting role in today’s geopolitical climate. In From the Ruins of Empire, he looks back at the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when much of Asia was still wrestling with the ideological influence of its colonizers. The book focuses on Liang Qichao, a Chinese reformer and early influence on Mao Zedong who wrote — in a line that might have been plucked from the 2012 news cycle — about the risks and temptations of viewing China as the world, as well as Persian ideologue Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who advocated pan-Islamic “zeal” as the way to revive the Muslim world. If these unheralded thinkers were better known, Mishra argues, the world might better understand Asia’s rise today. In Afghanistan, for instance, money and lives could have been saved, Mishra says, “if the simple moral equations — miniskirts versus Taliban beards” were replaced with deeper intellectual engagement with the past. Binary frameworks like this, he says, show just how unaware East and West are of their history — both shared and, more importantly, not.
87. TARIQ RAMADAN
For telling us that Islam and democracy can go together — just when it matters.
Scholar | Britain
In the wake of the Arab uprisings, which simultaneously swept Islamists to power and brought new democracies into being in much of the Middle East, Arab countries are grappling with how to reconcile Islamic tradition with freedom, gender equality, and human rights — ideas that many perceive as alien imports from the West. These are precisely the questions with which Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic studies at Oxford University and the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, has spent his career wrestling. Islam, he argues, is not inherently anti-Western; the two can be reconciled. Ramadan’s aim is to reform minds, he is fond of saying, not rewrite holy texts.
It’s a message that resonates among émigré populations in the West, but has much to offer newly liberated Middle Eastern societies as well. In Islam and the Arab Awakening, his controversial new book that infuriated some because of its conspiracy-theorizing about the Western origins of the Arab Spring, Ramadan challenges Muslims to embrace democracy on their own terms, suggesting now is an excellent time for some “political creativity.” He’s no mere cheerleader for street politics, though, acknowledging that decades of oppressive dictatorship crippled “the life of ideas” in much of the Arab world and demanding change rather than blind adherence to the past. There can be, he says, “no faithfulness without evolution.”
88. JÜRGEN HABERMAS
For asking, what is Europe anyway?
Philosopher | Germany
Among a generation of gloomy 20th-century European philosophers who sought to tear down reason and justice as instruments of oppression, Jürgen Habermas long remained an intemperate optimist. He found his inspiration in the coffeehouses and cafes of an earlier era in European history and, in 1981, coined his most famous concept: communicative rationality, the idea that the very process of talking and arguing produces agreement.
But the current crisis in Europe has beaten the optimism out of Habermas. He has described European politicians’ halting response to the mess as a creeping coup d’état that has put power in the hands of faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. And as the eurozone economy imploded, the nationalism that the European Union was supposed to suppress came roaring back, with parties across the continent dabbling in a potent brew of racism and Islamophobia that has turned right-wing extremism into a political growth industry. For the first time in the EU’s history, the 83-year-old Habermas told Der Spiegel, “we are actually experiencing a dismantling of democracy. I didn’t think this was possible.”
So what is this Europe whose decline Habermas so laments — and how will it be saved? In his new book, The Crisis of the European Union, Habermas lays out a case for a more cosmopolitan Europe that more fully transcends its national borders, where political power vested in an EU government elected by the people of Europe would foster the kind of cross-border solidarity that the crisis has so clearly exposed as lacking. It is a bold vision of a pan-European democracy that would effectively end state sovereignty and foster a unity that no market force could undermine. In a year of stifling incrementalism, Habermas’s ambitious vision is like a breath of fresh air.
89. RICKEN PATEL
For proving web activism doesn’t have to begin and end with a click.
Executive director, Avaaz | New York
Ricken Patel has taken the fuzzy concept of a “global community” and given it teeth. Avaaz, the civic organization he co-founded in 2007, has grown into the world’s largest web activism movement. Its more than 16 million members vote on the organization’s priorities and direct their donations in support of a wide array of causes, from combating global warming to convincing the Hilton hotel chain to train staff to spot guests trapped in prostitution. In harnessing the Internet as a force for global change, Patel has disproved the notion that such ventures are mere “clicktivism” and has pioneered a new model for advancing human rights and democracy.
Patel, a Canadian who spent his career working as an analyst in conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, modeled Avaaz after the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, but on a global scale. These days, however, Avaaz has gone far beyond the usual roster of progressive causes, most notably with its daring bid to play a direct role in Syria’s civil war. Armed with millions of dollars donated from supporters across the world, Patel’s network has smuggled medicine and communications equipment to activists inside the country and helped with the evacuation of journalists from the besieged city of Homs. In stark contrast to the international community, which has “been full of words and light on actions,” Patel said, “we’ve given concrete support and assistance.”
Whether coordinating assistance in a guerrilla war or supporting gay rights in Uganda, Patel says that Avaaz’s ethos of transnational empowerment remains the same. “There are two types of fatalism,” he said. “The belief the world can’t change, and the belief you can’t play a role in changing it.”
90. VIVEK WADHWA
For a fresh idea in the U.S. immigration debate.
Entrepreneur | Menlo Park, Calif.
Start-ups create jobs. Immigrants create start-ups. But immigrants have such a difficult time entering the United States that for the first time in decades, immigrant entrepreneurship has stalled. According to a study by entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa — which he turned into a book this year, The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent — even as the number of immigrants in the United States has risen, the percentage of immigrant-founded companies has hardly budged from the 25 percent it was at in 2005; in Silicon Valley the numbers fell from 52 percent to 44 percent. It’s so bad that the start-up Blueseed is planning to anchor a ship in international waters outside Silicon Valley so that foreign entrepreneurs can live on the vessel and be closer to their investors and clients without needing work visas. How can the United States hope to compete in the 21st century, Wadhwa asks, without welcoming the world’s best and brightest?
An Indian-born U.S. citizen, Wadhwa is at the forefront of the movement to institute what he calls a “start-up visa,” through which entrepreneurs with proven job creation and company size get fast-tracked for long-term visas. Otherwise, Wadhwa says, the skilled immigrants will be long gone. “They’ll be back home building the next Googles and Intels in other countries, and we will wake up five years from now and wonder how we let this happen,” he says. It’s a wake-up call that post-recession America would do well to heed.
91. DANAH BOYD
For showing us that Big Data isn’t necessarily better data.
Social media researcher | New York
The discussion of Big Data — a buzzword for the proliferation of information in the digital age and the technologies that have emerged to collect and analyze it — often centers on potential: the power of massive data sets to transform government and revolutionize business, and even spell the “end of theory” in the social sciences, as Wired‘s Chris Anderson boldly asserted. Federal agencies from the CIA to the Defense Department have launched initiatives based on the concept.
danah boyd (not a typo: she stripped her name of capital letters in 2000) has done her share of data-mining too, studying the key role social media has played in spreading information during the Arab Spring and Mexican drug war. But, she warns, Big Data isn’t necessarily better data. “Will large-scale search data help us create better tools, services, and public goods?” boyd and a co-author inquired in a paper this year. “Or will it usher in a new wave of privacy incursions and invasive marketing? Will data analytics help us understand online communities and political movements? Or will it be used to track protesters and suppress speech?” boyd worries about using data gathered from sites like Facebook and Twitter just because it is accessible. She’s also concerned about the growing power gap between the many people who create data (think Facebook’s 1 billion users) and the few with the resources and the power to establish rules governing its use (think Mark Zuckerberg). They’re questions we often forget to ask as we move more and more of our lives online, but if we don’t listen to visionaries like boyd, we may not like the answers so much.
92. SLAVOJ ZIZEK
For giving voice to an era of absurdity.
Philosopher | Slovenia
With intellectual influences ranging from Karl Marx to French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the Matrix trilogy, Slavoj Zizek has emerged over the past two decades as a modern rarity: a celebrity philosopher, appearing everywhere from op-ed pages to cable-news debates to your local art-house movie theater. At a time of capitalism in crisis, Zizek has proved that the hard left can still offer valuable critiques of current events and contemporary culture — even as the left itself has often been the subject of his withering criticism.
Zizek, who holds professorships at the University of Ljubljana and the European Graduate School in Switzerland, is an almost absurdly prolific writer of dozens of books, including four just this year on subjects ranging from the global financial crisis to Hegel. He’s perhaps better known, however, for his agitated, rapid-fire public speeches. He’s a favorite on the university speaking circuit, not to mention the star of several feature-length documentaries, including Zizek! and The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. It doesn’t hurt that he laces his arguments with frequent allusions to pop culture. Zizek is a self-described communist but is probably a bit too misanthropic (“Humanity? Yes, it’s OK — some great talks, some great arts. Concrete people? No, 99 percent are boring idiots.”) to neatly fit into any particular ideology. He spoke at Occupy Wall Street in its early days but later lost enthusiasm for the movement, describing the New York Police Department’s clearing of Zuccotti Park as a “blessing in disguise.”
With his flair for self-promotion and penchant for the deliberately outrageous — he has written that “the problem with Hitler was that he was not violent enough” — Zizek has led some critics to wonder whether he is more performance artist than philosopher, a “Borat of philosophy,” as he has been called. But in an ever-more-absurd world, that might be just what we need.
93. MARTHA NUSSBAUM
For shining a light on the West’s dark corners of intolerance.
Law and ethics professor | Chicago
In a year when an anti-Islam video sparked deadly protests across the Arab world and a spate of violent incidents targeted minority groups in the United States, Martha Nussbaum’s new book offered a thoughtful, timely corrective to the divisive dangers of religious intolerance, particularly Islamophobia. Charting its rise and evolution in Europe and the United States since the 9/11 attacks — from European laws prohibiting burqas in public to the uproar over a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York — Nussbaum’s The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age forcefully defends those whose religious freedoms have recently been circumscribed or attacked.
An author and editor of dozens of books ranging over the big ideas of everything from the Greek classics to feminism, Nussbaum brings a philosopher’s mind to an explosive political topic, pinpointing the roots of religious fear as a fundamentally “narcissistic” emotion that dovetails with a “visceral reaction against strangeness.” Nussbaum, who converted to Judaism in the 1960s and is the daughter of a Southern Protestant she admits was anti-Semitic and racist, knows religious hatred firsthand. “When it’s a minority that dresses differently, that has different customs, people are afraid of that,” she explained in an interview this year. “It’s easy for them to swallow some paranoid fantasy.”
94. JOHN COATES
For exposing how biology affects Wall Street.
Neuroscientist | Britain
When John Maynard Keynes used the term “animal spirits” in 1936, he was referring to the ways human hubris and fear can inflate profits and deepen losses. But that is only part of the story. John Coates — who ran a trading desk at Deutsche Bank during the dot-com crisis and left Wall Street to become a Cambridge University neuroscientist — realized that his traders’ responses to big gains and losses were also driven by their physiology, an insight that is changing our understanding of financial risk at a time when the actions of a handful of traders can increasingly dictate the course of global markets.
Humans’ innate fight-or-flight response, which primes the body for danger, forms the basis for the kind of risky behavior that can drive big gains. But these physical processes can also work against Wall Street traders. The title of Coates’s fascinating 2012 book, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, refers to a medieval French expression that describes the transformation in a man as his testosterone level climbs and he is primed for a fight: He becomes cocky, aggressive, and confident in his own superiority. These are qualities that have helped humans overcome risky situations for millennia, but on Wall Street, Coates argues, our primal instincts can backfire.
His research measuring traders’ hormone levels, which has helped spur newfound interest in the biology of risk, reveals that as profits mount, testosterone levels increase, contributing to the irrational exuberance crucial to a financial bubble. Conversely, when losses increase, a different hormone, cortisol, begins to build up. That stress hormone contributes to the irrational pessimism that can turn a market downturn into a full-fledged crash. The solution, Coates suggests, is simple: Hire more women and older men on trading floors and end the practice of massive bonuses for short-term profits. “If we want to understand how people make financial decisions, how traders and investors react to volatile markets,” Coates writes, “we need to recognize that our bodies have a say in our risk-taking.”
95. JONATHAN ZITTRAIN
For staring down the Internet’s enemies.
Law professor | Cambridge, Mass.
When the World Conference on International Telecommunications convenes in Dubai in December, delegates will tackle an enormously consequential question: Should the United Nations assert greater control over the Internet, or should a motley collection of public and private “stakeholders” continue to govern it? Ahead of the summit, authoritarian countries such as China and Russia have expressed support for international standards in the name of cybersecurity — raising concerns that human rights will be trampled and the Internet shackled.
We can’t say we weren’t warned. Jonathan Zittrain’s 2008 book, The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It, focused on the threat that government regulators and companies, in their quest to address security problems and assert control, pose to digital freedom. It helped establish Zittrain as the general counsel of the digital age, and the Harvard University law professor has continued to wrestle with the web’s biggest questions ever since. Is Internet access a human right? How do we respect the rights of the unwitting people who become the subject of Internet memes? Is it legal for an insurance company to set rates for its customers based on GPS data? More than anyone, Zittrain has asked who the Internet’s public and private gatekeepers are, how they’re acting, and what that means for the future of the open web. And he has addressed his own questions by helping establish the OpenNet Initiative, which monitors Internet surveillance around the world, and Chilling Effects, which posts legal complaints about online activity. In May, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission tapped Zittrain to chair a committee tasked with evaluating the agency’s efforts to keep the Internet open and the telecommunications market competitive. There’s little doubt Zittrain is skeptical of this latest bid by Russia and China to put the Internet back in the box; the web can’t be governed by committee. As he wrote in his book, “The Net and its issues sail blithely on regardless of the carefully worded communiqués that emerge from a parade of meetings and consultations.”
96. LUIGI ZINGALES
For reminding us what conservative economics used to look like.
Economist | Chicago
When deficit hawks compare the United States to the ailing economies of Europe, they’re often making a point about America’s unsustainable debt and social welfare spending. But Luigi Zingales, an influential business professor at the University of Chicago, likens the United States to his native Italy for a different reason: They’re both reeling from crony capitalism. Runaway debt and ballooning entitlements, he argues, are merely symptoms of a debilitating disease: widespread collusion between politicians and big business. Zingales left Italy for the States in 1988 to escape a country that “invented the term nepotism and perfected the concept of cronyism,” only to find the phenomenon spreading like a virus in his adopted home.
In his new book, A Capitalism for the People, Zingales contends that the Republican Party abandoned its pro-market principles under George W. Bush and instead became pro-big business, courting companies with tariffs and tax breaks rather than building a competitive marketplace. Now he’s pleading with Republican leaders to return to their conservative roots by busting monopolies, refusing to bail out banks, eliminating de facto corporate subsidies in the tax code, and imposing a tax on lobbying. “We need to stand up and criticize business when business is not helping the cause of free markets,” he declares.
It’s a resonant message at a fraught moment for American-style capitalism. In the wake of the global recession, faith in the free market has plunged in countries such as Italy and Spain and declined in the United States, albeit less sharply. Nearly 40 percent of Americans believe their country has a system of crony capitalism, while seven in 10 think government and big business are working together against them. In that sense, his ringing denunciation is the Capitalism and Freedom of our time. As economist Tyler Cowen put it, “If I had to pick out one book … to explain what is going on right now to a popular audience of non-economists, this might well be it.”
97. VIVIANE REDING
For demanding that Europe’s women have a seat at the table.
Vice president, European Commission | Belgium
Among the largest companies in the European Union, women held just 10.3 percent of corporate board seats five years ago. This year, that figure is all of 13.7 percent. “Sorry,” Viviane Reding, the European Commission’s top justice official, told Der Spiegel, “that’s just too slow for me.”
Her solution? Reding this year pushed an ambitious, if improbable, EU law to create mandatory quotas for women in the boardroom across the member states of the world’s biggest economic union. The proposal called for large companies to give at least 40 percent of their supervisory board positions to women by 2018. (In the United States, women filled a grand total of 16 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies in 2011.)
A native of Luxembourg and ex-journalist, Reding insists that giving women greater decision-making powers is not only a matter of fairness but also would be a boon for the economy. Having women on corporate boards corresponds to higher profits, she argues, and a standardized policy would make intra-European business easier. Unsurprisingly, she faces entrenched opposition. The law was shot down amid legal concerns in October, though Reding vowed to put forward a modified version. She is keeping at it if only because her proposal is the one serious idea on the table for addressing a gender imbalance that is consequential enough to impact Europe’s economic performance — and its values. “I hope that I’ll live to see the day when we have a society in which it isn’t important whether you’re a man or a woman,” she sighs.
98. JONATHAN HAIDT
For revealing the psychology of partisanship.
Psychologist | New York
Why is it that poor Americans might vote against their apparent economic self-interest and pull the lever for a candidate like Mitt Romney? Jonathan Haidt, whose work explores the psychology of political and religious division, has a message for liberals: Conservatives understand how to speak to voters’ moral concerns. Liberals, concludes Haidt, author of this year’s The Righteous Mind, just don’t get it.
A leading member of a new generation of psychologists applying the insights of evolutionary theory to morality, Haidt argues that we form political opinions not through simple reasoning but based on moral preferences humans have developed to reinforce ties to larger groups or tribes. He identifies six values that form the baseline of any moral system: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Using experiments, ethnographies, and surveys of tens of thousands of people around the world, he demonstrates that both left- and right-leaning people respond positively to the first three values, though the left-leaning place greater emphasis on care and fairness. Conservatives, meanwhile, emphasize loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Both groups value liberty but consider it threatened by different oppressors. The right wing, Haidt posits, simply has a greater number of moral taste buds. Arriving in a year marked by unprecedented political polarization in the United States and elsewhere, Haidt’s book offers a psychological explanation for the partisan divide. By stepping back and dispassionately examining the deeper origin of our disunion, he also offers hope that we can achieve something more — a wisdom that transcends brute moral emotions.
99. PETER BEINART
For diagnosing the “crisis of Zionism.”
Journalist | New York
Few issues are as contentious as Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian territories, and few debates are as heated as that over the role of America’s Jewish lobby in enabling those policies. Peter Beinart, former editor of the New Republic, took on both this year with his explicitly controversial new book, The Crisis of Zionism.
Heralded as “brave” by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (No. 34) and blurbed by Bill Clinton (No. 3), who called it a “deeply important book for anyone who cares about Israel,” The Crisis of Zionism offers a powerful critique of both Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the American Jewish establishment’s willingness to go along — an especially pointed critique in the midst of a U.S. election year that once again saw politicians in both parties rushing headlong to profess their reflexive defense of Israeli policies. At its heart, The Crisis of Zionism is a plea to resurrect what Beinart calls the “liberal Zionist dream” — a progressive democratic state that’s also capable of safeguarding the Jewish people — against the rise of the Israeli far right, which, aided and abetted by Jewish leaders in the United States, has slowly pushed Israel toward a de facto one-state solution.
The Crisis of Zionism not only shines a much-needed spotlight on Israel’s hard-right turn, but it may also prove a bellwether for shifting American attitudes toward the Jewish state. Beinart’s call for moral vigilance marks the rise of a new generation of American Jews who are unwilling to support Israel blindly. It’s unclear if this cadre of young intellectuals can change this bedrock assumption of American politics, but if Beinart’s book is any indication, they’re going to ruffle a few feathers trying.
100. SANA SALEEM
For insisting that free speech is not blasphemy.
Blogger | Pakistan
In September, when deadly riots swept across the globe following the release of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, the seriousness of the charge of “blasphemy” became starkly clear. In Egypt, for instance, there were calls for an anti-blasphemy clause in the country’s new constitution, and observers were outraged when officials in Pakistan arrested a 14-year-old Christian girl under the country’s blasphemy laws, widely used to persecute religious minorities. It will take people like Sana Saleem, a 25-year-old activist and blogger in Pakistan who is waging her own private campaign against government censorship, to push back.
In February, Pakistan solicited proposals for a “URL Filtering and Blocking System” — a system reminiscent of that in authoritarian China next door that could allow the government to block unwanted websites en masse. Saleem, founder of the Karachi-based anti-censorship group Bolo Bhi, which means “speak up,” decided to fight the proposal, the latest in a series of moves by Islamabad to curb free speech. Saleem reached out to executives at international companies, asking them not to participate in building Pakistan’s firewall. Despite threats and offensive taunts on Twitter, Saleem and her partners eventually shamed the government into shelving the proposal. She is still fighting for an official court injunction.
As she wrote in April on her blog, Mystified Justice, “When a state embroils its citizens in an ‘either you are with us or against us’ argument every dissent is at risk of being equated to treason — or in an Islamic country, blasphemy.” As an increasingly networked world butts heads with the historical forces of obscurantism and discrimination, we’ll need savvy activists like Saleem to defend everyone’s right to free speech online — even, or especially, if we don’t like what’s being said.