Top Ten Neglected Thinkers of the 20th. Century

I thought it might be interesting to list those who I consider to be the Top Ten Neglected Thinkers of the 20th Century, though it brings home that there may be neglected great women thinkers, who are so neglected that I have not heard of them. Any suggestions?
  1. Albert Camus (1913-1960) for reminding us that fascism never dies out and needs to be resisted indefinitely (in his novel The Plague). See
  2. Albert Hirschman (1915-present) for reminding us that economic institutions shape markets. See
  3. James P Carse for inventing the idea of infinite games. See
  4. Michael Kalecki (1899-1970) for predicting in 1943 that macro-economic management would be skewed by electoral politics. See
  5. George A Kelly (1905-1967) for giving us Personal Construct Theory that surfaces how we construe the world in very interesting ways. See
  6. Hermann Kahn (1922-1983) for suggesting we start planning for a steady state, no-growth economy from the early 1970s onwards. See
  7. Karl Popper (1902-1994) for teaching us to question all our theories and constantly seek to overturn them with fresh data. See
  8. Howard Hodgkin (1932- present) my favorite living artist for helping draw attention to the framing of the world. See
  9. John K Galbraith (1908-2006) for being the greatest economist since Keynes and keeping alive the tradition of critical economic thinking free of unrealistic mathematical modeling and suggesting the idea that capitalism needs countervailing powers to keep it in check.
  10. Rachel Carson (1907-1964) for pioneering modern environmental concerns. See

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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6 Responses to Top Ten Neglected Thinkers of the 20th. Century

  1. jjhiii24 says:

    Hannah Arendt – a political philosopher and educator of the 20th century “The Human Condition”.
    Simone de Beauvoir – wrote on Existentialism and Feminism –“Ethics of Ambiguity”
    Ayn Rand – “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”
    Iris Murdoch – “The Black Prince”
    Philippa Foot, a philosopher who argued that moral judgments have a rational basis
    Marjorie Grene – Philosophy Professor who studied Plato with Heidegger, Kant and Hegel with Karl Jaspers
    Virginia Woolf – “A Room of One’s Own”

    • @jjhii24. Great. Thanks. I will post this as a guest posting if you don’t mind as it fills in some valuable blanks. Though I wouldn’t have thought of Ayn Rand. But hey for me she is provocative with her view that the masses exploit the elite…I guess she never worked on an assembly line or indeed ever did a real job. Poor top 1% so put upon by the 99%. I would add Marie Curie, Karen Armstrong, the religious commentator, and Rosalind Franklin the co-discoverer of DNA.

      • jjhiii24 says:

        I am glad to be included in the conversation about neglected thinkers of the 20th century, and tried to enumerate women thinkers who I feel haven’t been given as much attention as they deserve as thinkers. I am a huge fan of Karen Armstrong, but I felt she was getting a fair amount of attention in the context of your framing of the question.

        Marie Curie didn’t occur to me, although I wouldn’t categorize her primarily as a thinker so much as an accomplished scientist, and Rosalind Franklin is a name I had not previously encountered so she definitely qualifies as neglected.

        Philosophy has a fair number of women thinkers currently, and I think the apparently low numbers of women in the 20th century thinkers club has a lot more to do with women not being encouraged and not having the same opportunities during those years, rather than necessarily being neglected. Hopefully, as a global society we have learned to encourage all thinkers of every variety as we move forward.

        John H.

      • @jjhiii24. I agree about encouraging all thinkers of every variety. My contact Scott Page has done work on cognitive diversity: how different mindsets are essential to solve complex global problems in a way that a mono mindsets simply cannot. One can only hope universities are achieving this and not pumping out orthodoxy of any kind: teaching to think not what to think.

  2. louploup2 says:

    Herman Kahn, hmmm… I never thought of him as an advocate “for a steady state, no-growth economy.” Do you have some citations to support the connection? There is nothing about Kahn’s writing or thinking in that regard at the wiki page you link to. Just the usual “thinking the unthinkable,” Rand corporation, etc.

    I recall an interview of Kahn in the Co-Evoloution Quarterly (c. Spring 1977). It stuck in my mind because I was working in rural Alaska at the time, and he pontificated that the North was just a waste land that should be exploited for the resources (North Slope oil, I assume considering the time and place–the pipeline opened that same year while I was there). No one lived there anyway; it’s a sacrifice zone. I don’t use quotes, but that’s the gist I recall. Not very “steady state, no-growth economy.”

    • @louploup. The book I had in mind was Herman Kahn’s Towards a Steady State Economy from 1973 but if you look up Herman Kahn and Steady State Economy on you will see other titles of his from the 90s. Kahn probably suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and says outrageous things without thinking of other people’s feelings but that does mean he may throw up interesting perspectives and he is not afraid to change his mind, which is rare these days. Kathryn Schulz great book Being Wrong helps on this….Thanks for your interesting comment.

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