In Depth

Russell Brand 'world's fourth most influential thinker'

Comedian beats Hillary Mantel and Henry Kissinger in magazine's list of prominent intellectuals

Russell Brand

Russell Brand has been voted the world's fourth most influential thinker by readers of the current affairs magazine Prospect.

The comedian, activist and self-confessed sex addict, who once lost his Radio 2 job over prank phone calls to Andrew Sachs, has beaten Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger and Booker prize winner Hilary Mantel in the list of the world's leading intellects. 

But his inclusion on the list, topped by French economist Thomas Piketty, has troubled some commentators and prompted ridicule from others.

"God, how depressing," Philip Cowley, professor of parliamentary government at the University of Nottingham told The Times. "It's embarrassing", he said, not least for everyone further down the list.

Prospect described Brand as "the spiritual leader of Britain's disaffected anti-capitalist youth".

"Dismissed by his opponents as a clownish opportunist, he is nevertheless the most charismatic figure on Britain's populist left," it said.

Indeed, says Hannah Ellis Petersen in The Guardian. "There are few figures who make the nation's blood boil – either with sheer frustration or the spirit of revolution – quite like Russell Brand."

Brand's recent reincarnation as a political thinker is due in part to his book, Revolution, published in 2014, which calls for the eradication of the "nation state", advocates radical wealth redistribution and a social revolution to end "corporate tyranny, ecological irresponsibility and economic inequality".

It received mixed reviews, with one Guardian critic calling it "unreadable", while others praised Brand for "using his platform in the media to draw attention to the stories it ignores".

But today's accolade was a step too far for many, reports the Daily Mail. Drayton Bird ‏wrote on Twitter: "Beyond parody: if this wag is a great thinker, my vote goes to Peppa Pig."

Tim Walker said: "A generation or so ago, Bertrand Russell was considered to be a great thinker. Now, comically, it's Russell Brand."

One group who may welcome Brand's new status is the Green party, which has been singled out for praise by the activist. "I think the Green party seem fantastic," he said. "If only there were the constitutional reform to make them electable. And in fact the widespread democratic change so that people can participate in [such] politics." 
 

A Green party spokesperson told the New Statesman: "it is great to have the support of someone who is campaigning on issues that are vital to the future of this country – inequality, rapidly rising house prices, and our outdated drugs policy – and providing a voice for so many people feeling cut off and disaffected by a political system that fails to represent them".

The news may also boost the opening of Russell Brand's new venture, the Trew Era Café, which opens its doors today on the New Era housing estate, where Brand campaigned with residents to save them from eviction.

The café will be run as a social enterprise funded by the profits from the star's latest book Revolution.

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