46. Kwame Anthony Appiah
for forging a code of ethics to fit a globalized world.
Philosopher, Princeton University | Princeton, N.J.
Once described as "our postmodern Socrates," Kwame Anthony Appiah has this year turned to the big subject of the social uses of honor around the world: His 2010 book, The Honor Code, documents how it has been used to bring about "moral revolutions" -- the end of abhorrent practices such as slavery and foot-binding -- in the past, and how it can be used to end present evils such as honor killings. "You have to figure out how to get honor to concede to morality," the Princeton University professor said recently. "My thought is: Don't abandon honor; reshape it." It's this unabashedly activist posture that sets Appiah -- who wrote an eloquent letter nominating Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize -- apart from many of his colleagues. In fitting abstract concepts to the changing demands of the modern world, he is trying to make philosophy relevant again.
Photo by David Shankbone
47. Jacques Attali
for not letting a crisis go to waste.
Economic advisor | France
When debt crises exploded in Greece, Ireland, and elsewhere this year and many were predicting the euro's demise, Jacques Attali, who had been present at the creation of the euro, kept his cool and pushed for deeper economic integration, insisting that disaster has always driven progress in the European Union. "The Greek crisis today will, in the end," he argued, "have been the midwife of the completion of the European project." Attali saw a more urgent crisis for Paris closer to home -- namely, the national debt threatening to strangle the country's overly rigid economy. As head of an independent commission set up by the French government, he released in October a set of politically incorrect, but economically vital suggestions for bringing the French welfare state into line, from increasing taxes to means-testing family benefits. As austerity measures threaten political crisis in France, Attali might be exactly the right person to help his country weather the storm.
48. Robert Shiller
for bringing economics (and economists) down to earth.
Economist, Yale University | New Haven, Conn.
If there is one financial indicator that has defined America's current economic malaise, it's home sales. And if there is a man who has defined that indicator -- literally -- it's Robert Shiller. As the co-creator of the go-to reference on the subject, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, the economist has become the world's most important housing guru. A decade after famously warning that the dot-com boom was just so much "irrational exuberance," he was among the first to predict that the housing bubble would pop, and he has spent the last two years saying that we're not in the clear yet.
Shiller's unconventional brand of economics -- he cites his wife, a psychologist, as a major influence on his thinking -- has left him skeptical of optimistic recovery scenarios drawn from past downturns such as the 1990s Asian crash. As he put it in September, "Hopes that the aftermath of the current crisis will turn out better are still in the category of thoughts, theories, and dreams, not science."