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Old 10-10-2013, 10:33 AM   #1
kennyc
The Dank Side of the Moon
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The pseudo-profundity of Malcolm Gladwell

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The pseudo-profundity of Malcolm Gladwell
The essayist's mania for teachable narrative goes hand in hand with a revealingly indifferent attitude to truth.
BY STEVEN POOLE PUBLISHED 10 OCTOBER 2013 10:41

Malcolm Gladwell is sometimes criticised on the basis that, although he has a reputation as a thinker, all he does is précis other people’s research. That’s not fair. Popularising academic ideas with style for a broad audience is hardly an ignoble pursuit. The real problem with Gladwell goes far deeper. It is the method that he has helped make ubiquitous in modern non-fiction trade publishing.

“Through these stories,” he explains in the introduction to his latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (Allen Lane, £16.99), “I want to explore two ideas.” The method of “exploring” ideas through stories is now the preferred mode of, or replacement for, serious thought and argument. Unfortunately, it can lead an incautious writer into a conceptual shambles.

Gladwell is a brilliant salesman for a certain kind of cognitive drug. He tells his readers that everything they thought they knew about a subject is wrong, and then delivers what is presented as a counterintuitive discovery but is actually a bromide of familiar clichés. The reader is thus led on a pleasant quasi-intellectual tour, to be reassured at the end that a flavour of folksy wisdom was right all along. Little things really can make a big difference; trusting your gut can be better than overthinking; successful people work hard.
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http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/...udo-profundity
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