The Gladwell effect

'By proving methodically that ideas spread from the ground up and are transmitted by peers one trusts — rather than being dictated top-down by pundits and ad men to be passively received — he switched the locus of power to the absorber or consumer of ideas and products (and inaugurated a vast trend for marketers to “seed” a product with “influencers” in a way that would hopefully “go viral”. He also anticipated the community-building and opinion-making power of the internet.) Adieu, unquestioned authority of newspapers, historians and Madison Avenue.

In Blink, to my mind his least successful book, he nonetheless proved that there is no such thing as a human being without bias. So long, myths of a post-racial, post-feminist, post-class-structure society. And in his most important book, the new Outliers — which could actually be called “Inliers” because it is about how perfectly ordinary people or garden-variety geniuses either do or do not get the breaks that will catapult them to the heights — he gives a sweeping, scorched-earth annihilation of the Western world’s delusion that there is such a thing as a functioning meritocracy; and he punctures for good America’s favourite fairytale, that anyone with grit and pluck can haul him or herself up by the bootstraps and succeed.

- Naomi Wolf, 'Malcolm Gladwell: 'I was an outsider many times over'.


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