A propensity to self-subversion.
June 28, 2013 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Malcolm Gladwell on the biography of economist Albert O. Hirschman.
posted by holmesian (8 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

So, the first thing you do is to take all the plans off the top shelf and throw them out the window and start once more. But if you haven't been planning you can't start to work, intelligently at least.

That is the reason it is so important to plan, to keep yourselves steeped in the character of the problem that you may one day be called upon to solve--or to help to solve.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:36 PM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


What usually happens with me is, I launch a project that looks stone cold simple and straight forward, hit an unexpected speedbump, recognize my limitations (I contain multitudes), cast about for something easier to do, and jump into that full speed ahead until the first hitch arrives.

For example, this TFA. I read the first page, half of the second, realized it was going to take a lot longer to finish reading than I expected it to when I clicked the link, hit the back button, stopped in here to share this, and now I'm off to make a pitcher of margaritas with the bag of limes, the sack of sugar, and the bottle of reposado I picked up earlier at the Mexican market.

For sure one thing I start today will get finished.
posted by notyou at 3:56 PM on June 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hmmm.... is this going to be a threat where people mock Gladwell for being Gladwell, or engage with some interesting long-form content?

What's the plan?
posted by delmoi at 2:54 AM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


@delmoi: I don't want to encourage anyone to "mock Gladwell for being Gladwell". However, the two alternatives you propose - trite snark and discussion exclusively focused on the article with no attention to the wider context - are not the only alternatives open to us.

I would suggest it is an important part of the intellectual context to anything Gladwell writes, and to any attempt to engage with his work, that we acknowledge some of the serious questions that have been raised about his integrity and independence as a public intellectual.

Long story short, anyone who cares to can go here and inform themselves of the allegations against him. He is supposedly a long term supporter of the tobacco industry, named in a confidential document from Philip Morris as one of the industries top covert assets, posing as a third-party commentator but reliably a supporter of pro-tobacco positions. He also seems oddly comfortable with supporting and glorifying the wealthy and powerful.

That said, this is less an article about Gladwell's own views than it is about a fascinating figure of whom I was previously unaware. Albert O. Hirschman and EXIT, VOICE AND LOYALTY will probably go on the ever expanding reading list.

If the allegations against Gladwell are true, then it is somewhat paradoxical for a man who has built a career on selling out to the powerful to improve his image to be celebrating an economist who volunteered to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War and who valued fighting to redeem institutions over walking away from them.

But then, Albert O. Hirschman sounds like the sort of man who savoured paradoxes; it might be oddly unfitting not to explore that one here.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:27 AM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I vote for Gladwell mockery, someone else can kick it off though.
posted by Teakettle at 1:31 PM on June 29, 2013


I've encountered Gladwell enough times to be on board with the mockery, but the article is actually great. I wouldn't have guessed it was him, actually.

Or maybe the subject is so compelling that even Gladwell can't mess it up.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:06 PM on June 29, 2013


Actually, I read this most interesting essay whilst idly flipping thru pages in the NYr without realizing that Gladwell wrote it...

Which made no difference, because I'm not a hater. I think that Gladwell is an interesting journalist, and I've liked most of what he has written that I've read. He may not be perfect in some eyes, but hey..
posted by ovvl at 9:38 PM on June 29, 2013


Maybe he needs a nom de plume for his non asshat (faux-contrarian) writing... because his lede makes me want to skip whatever he's done.
posted by stratastar at 1:17 PM on June 30, 2013


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