Can Malcolm Gladwell’s writings lead to “the sociology of success”?

Sociologists might like Malcolm Gladwell but I wonder how many of them would go so far as to endorse a course titled “the sociology of success” based on his writings:

The Idea Lab has completed the first course of an ongoing educational offering called Krypton Community College, a free online/offline project based on a simple idea: We learn better when we do it together. Every four weeks, Krypton Community College presents a different course, based around the work of an acclaimed author / teacher / scholar / speaker – someone with something to say and a track record doing it. The first course, No. 001, was based on the works of acclaimed leadership expert Seth Godin.From noon to 1 p.m. on Nov. 5, The Idea Lab will present the first session of four-week course No. 002 of Krypton Community College. “We are happy to announce that the second course, The Sociology of Success, comes from the works of Malcolm Gladwell,” Ashby said. “This course draws from Malcolm’s writings about how the society we build influences who we become, the heroes that lead us, and the choices we make.”…
Ashby explained how Krypton Community College works. “With every course, we meet each Tuesday for lunch for four weeks,” he said. “Everyone who enrolls in the course gets a PDF document with links to articles and other resources. We come together to discuss and encourage each other to dive deeper into the work.”

On one hand, perhaps this takes advantage of what Gladwell does well: synthesize social science research and create interesting narratives. People who might typically not consider sociological ideas can attend this lunch course and learn something.

On the other hand, perhaps this is “pop sociology” at its worst: quickly scanning the works of Gladwell in a hour and hearing sociology through a journalistic lens. Even more problematic might be the title of the whole class – finding “success,” whatever that means, or talking about leadership. This course isn’t really about sociology but rather than American values of getting ahead with a veneer of academic respectability.

In the end, I would be suspicious that there is much sociology in this one lecture. Granted, this isn’t a full course but it seems like a very limited sociological approach.

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