This is a list in nearly random order. These people and books have made a strong impression on me for one reason or the other.
Andy Warhol – through his work, I have learnt a lot about art and commodification
Frank Zappa – musical genius. Showed me the importance of humor, sarcasm and creativity
Amartya Sen – economist, but equally much philosopher. His Development as Freedom has made a very strong impression on me.
Karl Polanyi – His The Great Transformation made me understand what capitalism is.
Richard Koo – The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japan’s Great Recession is required reading for anyone trying to understand the interplay of businesses, central banks and fiscal and monetary policy. Also a great idea – yin and yang economic cycles.
Paul Krugman – again a fairly sarcastic person, but he has a knack for discussing important issues in a fairly simple manner. And his article with Gauti Eggertson is great.
Paul de Grauwe – I used his textbook on economic monetary union in my studies (4th edition). I now rely on the 9th version, because a lot of issues that he kind of predicted have come true. Also his paper on Monetary Governance in the Euro-zone is required reading. Not so easy but very important.
Neil Fligstein – the Architecture of Markets /and Patrik Aspers – Markets, two very important works of economic sociology through which one comes to see markets in a much more nuanced way than through economics.
Jürgen Habermas – The Inclusion of the Other. This collection of essays should be required reading in Civics classes. Habermas is of course a European optimist, with perhaps less feel for economics, but his analysis of the nation state and national citizenship is very relevant today.
In the category ‘very inspiring’ we can find:
Herbert Marcuse – One-dimensional man, which I still don’t completely understand but I think it deals with the issues of labour power and value-creation as relating to the labour contract and Marx’ analysis of capitalism.
Yanis Varoufakis – The Global Minotaur – very gripping read, especially for a macroeconomics book!! There is a lot of substance here, but difficult to summarize.
John Zorn – composer, saxophone player. Perhaps he has radical thoughts but at least he has radical and innovative music.
Jacques Attali – Noise. This is a very difficult, very important book on the relation between democracy and noise (i.e. tolerance to dissident ideas).
Jane Jacobs – Systems of Survival. Jacobs argues that for organizations there are two ‘syndromes’ or sets of tenets of behaviour, which should not be mixed and if mixed cause a lot of fraud, violence (symbolic and otherwise) and inefficiency. Difficult to abstract or apply, but I want to use this in research sometimes.
Besides these, there is lots of music, art etc that inspires me. But the most important is a basic idea of sociology ‘studying common knowledge.’ Whether it is austerity politics or the alleged effect of wage costs on competitiveness, I think it is important to ask all the time – is it really like that?