May 21, 2008 by Colin
Mark Kingwell, a Professor at the University of Toronto, and Malcolm Gladwell, you know him, sat down to discuss social change at the University of Toronto last week.
Eye Weekly had some biting remarks about their exchange:
“… Gladwell cautioned any exchange between him and Kingwell was bound to turn into “an incredibly boring love-in” – punctured only by the fact that Kingwell’s review of The Tipping Point called him “a shallow and unconvincing thinker”. Yet, a retaliation of sorts took shape, and it involved antagonizing the philosophy professor with talking points straight out of Alex P. Keaton’s precocious playbook.
Seat belt use, chemical company compliance and same-sex marriage legalization were raised by Gladwell as three examples where “awareness and engagement” had nothing to do with their adoption. “We have come to fetishize the knowing part when we should pay more attention to the mechanics of doing.”
And which figure does Gladwell consider the biggest hypocrite in that regard? Al Gore, who did nothing to raise environmental awareness during eight years as vice-president. Not long after he’s no longer able to affect policy, he makes a movie. “Then we put him up on a pedestal,” sneers Gladwell. “And that represents everything that’s wrong with the way we view social change.”
Kingwell went for a more intense response that drew on his recovering Catholic theological background, suggesting that everything you need to know about social change can apparently be seen in Conversion on the Way to Damascus, a painting by Caravaggio. And how the Corinthians quote about “Faith, Hope, Love” is not about romance, but the responsibility to be charitable: “It’s not enough to comfort the afflicted,” he said. “We also must afflict the comfortable.” …”
[tags] Gladwell, Kingwell, social theory, social change [/tags]