Malcolm Gladwell is the New Alvin Toffler

Maud tears Malcolm Gladwell a new one: “Does anyone else find it odd that a cultural critic would compare, with no apparent sense of irony, the activities of the Nazis with the financial maneuverings of corporations, in a free-market defense of the latter?”

Well, it’s my view that Malcolm Gladwell has always been about generalized arguments and deficient dichotomies. And if he keeps this up, in about ten years, his work will be as dated as Alvin Toffler’s is today. (I’m still waiting for Toffler’s paperless office and for “future shock” to kick in. Humans have proved remarkably adaptable as cell phones, the Internet, and manifold innovations have entered our collective existence.)


  1. And Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb.”

    Gladwell stuck in my craw when he wrote the same kind of poorly argued defense of big pharma’s high drug prices a couple years ago.

  2. For me, it was Gladwell’s New Yorker piece on how traumatized war veterans should Just Get Over It like The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit did. Reminds you that he became a star writing for THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR.

    Dunno why J. Egan’s so fond of this guy’s work.

  3. My response to this might not be the most compelling, as I’m going to relay feelings rather than facts:

    I agree with you, Ed and Maud. And it gets even more obnoxious when you check his blog and see him asking his readers to explain to him the reasons why Enron put themselves in deep trouble — after he already wrote the article.

    So my gripe actually has more to do with style than substance. While I do often find his articles compelling (in the same way that those contrarian articles by Hitchens and Flanagan are compelling), I don’t really enjoy reading them. Many writers featured in the New Yorker possess wit and personal flairs — basically, the writers tend to insert a little of themselves into the pieces. Gladwell almost never does that. There’s a dry distance to his writing — immediately start with the meat and then run around with it for a while. I imagine many of his ideas start out with some intriguing search results on profnet, and then he just argues the hell out of one section of one side of an idea.

    Personally if I want to read about Enron, then I want to also read something about manipulating markets — like how the California energy supply, managed in many ways by Enron, was artificially degraded by insiders (completely unnecessary blackouts used to promote the idea that the supply was tight), and then the state had to purchase energy at inflated prices from Arizona and other states.

    I mean, the little niche argument is fun for a bit, but I’d rather read something that provided a full picture, especially in the New Yorker. And it’s more fulfilling to read pieces where the author is a bit more involved and invested in the story.

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