The New Gladwell


Jason Zengerle has an interesting profile of Malcolm Gladwell in New York magazine that gets at the question of the political turn in his more recent work:

As for determining that action, Outliers moves away from the animating spirit of Gladwell’s previous books that led the New York Times to call him the “Dale Carnegie … of the iPod generation.” Gone, for the most part, are the cutesy buzzwords—there’s no place for “mavens” and “connectors” and “salesmen” in Gladwell’s story of success, and no amount of “thin-slicing” will help someone overcome relative-age disadvantage. “This is very specifically not a self-help book,” Gladwell says. “It’s a book that’s very much about collective and social organized change. I am explicitly turning my back on, I think, these kind of empty models that say, you know, you can be whatever you want to be. Well, actually, you can’t be whatever you want to be. The world decides what you can and can’t be. And the appropriate place to provide opportunities is at the world level, not the individual level.” With his last book, Gladwell sought to eliminate the focus group; with this one, he wants to eradicate poverty.

As I’ve said before, it’s no coincidence that this turn coincides with an anti-Gladwell backlash.