August 18th, 2014

Plenary Session. An Evening with Malcolm Gladwell


Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers — The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and now, his latest, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants. He has been named one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine and one of the Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.

He has explored how ideas spread in the Tipping Point, decision making in Blink, and the roots of success in Outliers. With his latest book, David and Goliath, he examines our understanding of the advantages of disadvantages, arguing that we have underestimated the value of adversity and over-estimated the value of privilege. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has won a national magazine award and been honored by the American Psychological Society and the American Sociological Association. He was previously a reporter for The Washington Post.


>> Good evening. My name is Annette Lareau and I'm the President of the American Sociological Association and it's my pleasure to welcome you here this evening. There's quite a lot of hidden work that
goes into producing a conference such as the A.S.A. including our outstanding audio/visual team as well as a special thanks goes to Corinne Jenkins, the head of the Meetings Department of the A.S.A.
Please join me in thanking them for all their hard work. [APPLAUSE]
Although all of us are often admonished to write clearly, succinctly, and engagingly, instead we often write in a muddled, long winded, and boring fashion. Malcolm Gladwell is justly famous for his
ability to write in an engaging and accurate fashion about social science research. Among his many honors, he's received the first 2007 A.S.A. Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues.
Malcolm told me once that in New Yorker magazine authors are paid by the word which often leads to long pieces. The A.S.A. has a different ethos and although we will pay an occasional plane ticket or
hotel room for the A.S.A. all the words that have been flying around here for the last few days, all those words are for free. Malcolm Gladwell is a busy guy, but he flew all the way from New York
City to San Francisco to talk to us this evening. Please join me in welcoming Malcolm Gladwell. [APPLAUSE]
>> Thank you, Annette. That's a very generous introduction. It's a real pleasure to be here this evening. I'm -- a little intimidating. I'm not only the least educated person in this room, I'm also
probably the least rigorous in my work. Hard earned, by the way, accolade, but I'm going to try and overcome both those disadvantages this evening. I'm reminded by the way of -- when I think about
what it means to talk to you. When I was just out of college I lived in Washington D.C. in a group house and we used to have parties. And we would make two music -- this is back in the day when you
made mixed tapes. We would make two mixed tapes for the party. The first mixed tape was called educational tape and that was the music that we cared passionately about that was kind of difficult and
evolving and challenging and that we used to impress girls. And the second tape was called the party tape which was just mindless dance music that we listened to when we were drunk. I think you can
see where I'm going with this. I'm pretty clearly the party tape for this meeting. [Laughter] [APPLAUSE] But I'm fine with that. I don't have any -- it's a role I've accepted in life and so just keep
that in mind when you listen. But this is -- it's not an educational tape, it's a party tape.
So I thought what I would do this evening is I would run an idea, a proposition by you and it's a proposition that I think is squarely in the wheelhouse of the kinds of things that you think about as
a profession. And it's something that I have thought about it a fair amount recently, but I haven't written about because I haven't been able to figure out whether this argument makes any sense. And
I'm hoping that by running it by you tonight and by listening to your comments, I can endeavor to figure out whether I'm on the right track. So the proposition is and that is if Hillary Clinton is
elected President of the United States, she will be the last female President that we will have for a very, very long time. That's the proposition.
Now, why do I think this? Why would I venture this? Well, it all started when I read a really fascinating article by an art historian, a British art historian called Paul Usherwood a couple years ago
in an art journal. And he wrote an article about an English artist by the name of Elizabeth Thompson. And for those of you who are interested in exploring this in further detail, I hardly recommend
Usherwood's piece on Thompson which you could find on JSTOR. And all of the ideas that I begin this talk with come from that article in the way that the best academic articles do. It set me to ask
all kinds of questions and on a kind of course of further study that has resulted in this talk.
Thompson was born in 1846 in Switzerland. She's the daughter of English gentry. Her father's family had made a lot of money in West Indian sugar plantations which is to say that they had made a lot of
money off the backs of slaves. And they lived in Switzerland in great comfort. And at the age of 15 she decides that what she really wants to be is a painter and so she goes to London and she enrolls
in what was called the Female College of Art. Now it's important to understand that in the mid-19th Century, painting was not a female profession. It wasn't really open to women. There was a notion
at that time that women's brains were smaller than male brains and as a result the thought was they couldn't be fine artists. There was a distinction made between fine art on the one hand and between
craft and design on the other. And the idea was that women could handle craft and design, they couldn't handle fine art.
And so when women went to art school it was really as a kind of vocational practice. They were preparing themselves to be teachers of art, to do needle point but not sculpture, to rearrange the
furniture, and not to actually do paintings. They weren't even allowed back then -- women were not allowed to paint from nude models which, of course, was the foundational practice for artists of
that era. But Thompson's a little bit different than the norm. She comes from a family that's quite progressive in many ways and has not lived in England and been subject to those same kind of
strictures. She wants to be a real artist and so she graduates from this school and she decides that she's going to compete with all the men. And more than that, she decides that what she wants to be
is a war artist. Now, military art at that time was a very particular and important sub-genre of fine art. These are people who spent their lives depicting battlefield scenes, military scenes. It's
the most masculine of all the painting professions and that's what she decides to do. Not still lifes, not scenes of domestic tranquility in the countryside, but people killing each other. That's
going to be her focus.
And as it happens and as she's coming into maturity as an artist in her early 20's, there are two wars going on; the Franco-Prussian War and the Crimean War and she takes those wars as her great
subject. And at the very beginning of her career in her early 20's, she does a painting called "Missing." And "Missing" is a painting that shows these two French officers in the Franco-Prussian on
horseback and to everyone's surprise, this painting is accepted by the British Academy -- the British World Academy. Now another thing you should know about this era that doubtless you know already,
but in England as in France the world of art in this era was dominated by a small central academy; in England it was called the Royal Academy and it was made up of 40 people who held their positions
for life. And the only way you get elected to the Royal Academy was if someone in the Royal Academy resigned or died. And the only way you could stand for elections at the Royal Academy is if you
were already member of something called -- you were an Associate at the Royal Academy and being an Associate was also a very difficult honor to win. Limited number of positions for a small number of
And so this is an exclusive circle than runs essentially what was then -- if you can remember in the days before film and photography and all kinds of other modern media, painting was an
extraordinarily important profession. It's run by the small coterie of very powerful men. And every year the Royal Academy in England as in France holds an exhibition and that exhibition was the most
important art show of the year. Every artist of consequence in England would submit paintings to the Royal Academy and only a small number of those paintings were selected. And if you were selected
for the Royal Academy that was a huge deal that would guarantee your painting some measure of commercial success and it would make your name as a painter. You were not a real painter unless your
painting was selected by the Royal Academy.
So Thompson who was not only completely obscure and in her early 20's, but also a woman gets her first painting into the Royal Academy Show. And that's a big deal. And then in 1874 at the age of 28
she submits as second painting to the Royal Academy and it's called "Roll Call" and it's a painting of a line of British soldiers who have just fought a long battle over the course of a night and
they're lining up in the morning for inspection by their chief officer. And so you've got this line of bedraggled men and a weary officer on horseback inspecting them. And it's an extraordinary
painting because at that time in the field of military painting, what military painting tended to do was to glorify and glamourize war. And what Elizabeth Thompson does really for the first time is
to paint about war in a way that is emotionally bracing and honest and no one had done that before. And when her painting is finished and received, it is greeted with an extraordinary enthusiasm.
So one of the ways that the Royal Academy was signal its enthusiasm for a painting is where they hung the painting in their show. So their shows were always in a place called the Burlington House in
Piccadilly in London and it's a relatively small place. And there's a back room called the Lecture Room and if your painting is hung in the back room, the Lecture Room, it means they're not into it.
It's a minor painting, right. It's an insult almost to be hung back there. If you're hung in what was called Gallery 2 which is at the very front of the Burlington House, that's a huge deal. That
says your painting matters. Furthermore it matter where is the painting is hung on the wall. If you're sky, which is to say hung at the very top of these huge high ceilinged rooms, it means they
don't care about it. You can barely see it. The crowd has to lean back and look at it. But if you're hung on the line which is to say at eye level, that means you're a big deal. Well her painting is
hung on the line in Gallery 2. Mind blowing; this woman that barely anyone has heard of.
So she comes in on what's called Varnishing Day which is the day before the exhibition is open to the public and when all the artists come in to touch up their works before the doors open and she
walks in and she sees that her painting is on the line in Gallery 2 and she also sees that there is a huge crowd of fellow artists gathered around her painting just looking at it with a kind of
slack-jawed awe. And they see her coming down the stairs into Burlington House and they stand up and they give her a standing ovation. It's like unbelievable. And the next day when the doors open and
the crowds are finally let in, the crowds cluster around her painting in such a manner the British Academy has to hire policemen to keep them off the painting, to keep them from pressing in and
touching the painting. This has only happened once before in the history of the Royal Academy.
And then when the show is over and the exhibition is over, a bidding war breaks out for her painting, again, incredibly unusual. And the painting is taken on a tour of all of England. In Newcastle,
men walk up and down the streets outside the gallery where it's showing with sandwich boards saying "Roll Call" is here. In Liverpool, 20,000 people go and see her painting which is an extraordinary
number for that time. They used to have little cards that they would sell with little depictions of popular paintings on them in the same way that we have baseball cards today. Elizabeth Thompson
sells 250,000 copies of these little cards of her painting "Roll Call." It's a sensation. The Prince of Wales gives a speech and when he says that this woman is the future of British painting. Queen
Victoria insists that the painting be pulled from its road dhow and brought to Buckingham Palace because she wants to look at it for a week and that entails all kinds of incredibly elaborate
negotiations about whether the Queen has priority over the people of England when it comes to seeing this extraordinary artwork. There's articles in the newspapers that people talk about how this
painting has touched the hearts of people in England as no other painting has ever done.
And almost immediately on the heels of this extraordinary reception, people start talk about whether Elizabeth Thompson belongs in the British Academy. And so no woman had ever been elected in the
British Academy before. It's a completely new concept, but suddenly they're confronted with the fact the most famous painter in all of England is a woman. Right? The blazing talent has come along and
reimagined the entire world of art. So in 1879, she stands for election as an Associate member of the British Academy. The first time a woman has ever done that and there's three rounds of elections
for the British Academy. She wins the first round, she wins the second ballot, and on the third ballot she comes within two votes of election as an Associate member of the Academy which is for that
time and day absolutely mind-blowing. And everyone says she's a lock for the Academy the next time we have an election. She's changed everything. And if you were an artist or a woman in 1879, you
would say that Elizabeth Thompson represented a new age for women artists, right? Finally it seemed like the doors were opening. Now, I say seemed for a reason because the doors, in fact, didn't open
at least in the way that people had imagined.
I think it's important at this point to take a step back and think a little bit about what it means to be an outsider. And here I'm drawing on literature from your world because it's obviously
something sociologists have thought about a lot. In the beginning the outsider pariah, right. They are someone to whom the establishment, the majority, whatever are closed. So in the years when
baseball was segregated, if you were an African-American baseball player you played in the Negro leagues and you couldn't become a major leaguer. You were a pariah. That opportunity was absolutely
denied you. And then in 1947, the Brooklyn dodgers famously start Jackie Robinson at first base. And after Jackie Robinson a flood of other African-American ball players follow. So Jackie Robinson is
a pioneer. He opens the door for everybody else. The pariah turns into the pioneer. Now I think we understand the categories of pariah and pioneer really well. Most of our narratives about inclusion
are about that transition.
When we tell the story of the civil rights movement in America, that's what we're talking about. We're talking about the transition from people who were denied access to a given institution or a part
of American life to a position where the doors were finally flung open permanently to people who wanted to make that transition. That's the narrative of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. I can give you
countless examples of this particular transition. But I think it's important to note, as many have, that these aren't the only two categories, right? There's more to the world of insiders and
outsiders than the categories of pariah and pioneer. Sometimes when the door is open to an outsider, it doesn't stay open. So for example the first female airline pilot in the United States is a
woman named Helen Richey. She's hired by Central Airlines as a commercial pilot in 1934. Was Helen Richey a pioneer? No, because the door didn't stay open. In fact, today if you look at the number of
female commercial airline pilots in the United States it is less than 7%. Right? Helen Richey did not signal a flood of women entering this profession. She entered and nobody followed.
Similarly you can look at -- who was the first female neurosurgeon in the west? It was a woman named Sophia Ionesco in Bucharest in 1943. Was Sophia Ionesco of Bucharest a pioneer in this field of
neurosurgery? No, she wasn't. The flood never came. In fact, today if you look at the field of neurosurgery you will discover that less than 7% of neurosurgeons are women. So there are pariahs, there
are pioneers, but there's clearly a third category. There are also tokens and a token is someone who gets let in but after they get let in the door gets shut behind them. Now, the category of tokens
is a difficult one. It's weird. It doesn't seem to make sense, right? If I accept one version of a category of people, why wouldn't I accept all of them? If I accept one female neurosurgeon, why
wouldn't I be in the position to accept other female neurosurgeons? Same thing with pilots. It seems like a puzzle. But I would argue that, in fact, when you look at social history particularly as it
surrounds the professions there are the category of token is in many ways more numerous and more prevalent than the category of pioneers. That is to say it is more often the case that we see someone
let in and the door closes after them, than when we see someone let in and the door stays open after them.
In fact, I think that understanding the role of tokens greatly deepness and complicates our understanding of what discrimination really is. Discrimination is not, at least not all the time, is not
rejection. Discrimination is a combination of rejection and acceptance, right? And that's precisely what makes discrimination such an insidious force and such a difficult force to root out from our
society. So what do I mean by that? Well, let me describe two broad categories of tokenism that I think help us understand how this particular process works. And for lack of a better term, I'm going
to call the first troubling tokens and the second idealized tokens.
Start with the first case, the troubling token. So the troubling token is most famously explored by one of your own, by Rosabeth Kanter in the 1970's who does a series of papers and a really, really
brilliant book on the subject of female tokens in the workforce. And if you go back and many of you I'm sure have read her work. If you have not, it's one of those extraordinary works of social
science which not only is as fresh and meaningful today as it was back then, but has the capacity to kind of redraw the boundaries of your intellectual universe. And what Kanter is interested in is a
relatively simple question which is that if you are an outsider trying to break into a larger world, an all-male world, how much does it matter how many of you are there? So in other words, is there
a difference between being the only woman in Congress and being one of 50 women in congress? And Kanter's argument is that there is a big difference. That to a certain extent tokenism is a numbers
game, right? And that how you are perceived if you are an outsider by the rest of the world in which you're trying to participate is driven in large part by how numerous you are. When there are a lot
of you, you are judged very differently than when there are not a lot of you. And she argues that we ought to use 15% as a kind of rough proxy for when this transition, when this threshold is
operational. And what she says is if you're below that threshold you're a token. And if you're above it, you're not.
Well, what happens when you're below 15%? Well, she says a couple of interesting things happen. First of all, you become paradoxically incredibly visible. That if you are part of a very small group
among a large group of other you are, they say, paradoxically incredibly salient. You stand out. At the same time you're not judged for who you are. You're not judged according to your own
personality and characteristics. You are rather judged as a member of the group, the category to which you belong. So what the majority does is they look at you and they focus in on certain kinds of
characteristics that belong to your group and they exaggerate those characteristics and make much more of them than is actually legitimate. So in other words you're in this weird situation of being
both seen and not seen. And that makes it really, really difficult for you to function effectively.
So she gave all kinds of great examples, but one that struck me, that is striking is she talks about all that research that was done in the 1960's on juries -- jury composition. And there was a hold
field that looked at jury composition and gender roles in juries and pointed out that the men in juries tended to take on very task-oriented roles and the women would take on very reactive
socio-emotional roles, right? The stuff you would have predicted. Wow, look at the difference men and women operate in this kind of social environment. And Kanter says, wait a minute, when you look
at those studies what you discover is there is always way more men in the jury than the women. So what are we looking at? Are we looking at something that is actually constituentive of women,
descriptive and characteristic of women, or are we seeing a group effect that simply when women are present in small numbers in a group that's dominated by men, not only do they behave differently
but they're perceived differently. That's an incredibly interesting insight.
Here's another example. Since then that work has inspired lots of work, particularly in psychology. I realize that you did not come here to hear accounts of psychological research, but let me expand
your horizons for a moment. There is this tradition called psychology which occupies a different building than yours and where surprisingly things of insight are occasionally discovered. [Laughter]
So this is the one of the studies as many, but one of the studies that struck me was done in Israel. A group of psychologists are trying to figure out who's a better officer, men or women. And so
they have a large data set because there are many, many different military units in Israel. And in each of these units the proportion of male and female officers is different. And they discovered
this really fascinating thing which is if you look at the performance evaluation for military officers in units where the percentage of women is less than 10%, the women score much lower than the
men. In units where the percentage of women is greater than 20%, the women scored better than the men. In other words, once again, the performance of women and the perception of women's performance
is a function of their representation in a group, not necessarily of their actual individual characteristics.
Another way to put it is that being the first through the door, right, being the first woman in a particular military unit is really hard. You're going to get judged a lot more harshly than you will
if you were the 20th woman through the door in that particular unit. You know, and you can see in the real world numerous examples of this kind of troubling token, of the price that's paid by the
first person through the door. So the one that comes to mind is what happened in Australia a couple of years ago. I don't know if there are Australians in the room. But, you know, Australia is a
modern democracy. It is in every way as culturally advanced and sophisticated as the United States. Maybe not Canada where I'm from, but surely the United States. In many ways, in fact, it's more
progressive than the United States. So in 2010 Australia has their first female Prime Minister ever, Julia Gillard. And her victory is celebrated as this huge breakthrough for women. And she's tough
and she's funny and she's a savvy politician and she guides Australia through an incredibly difficult time with a level of skill and aplomb that, I think, is generally recognized as being unusual. So
what happens to her in this period that she spends as Prime Minister? Well, I think it's safe to say that she is subjected to a level of vitriol that is striking, I mean more than striking. That has
rarely been equaled in contemporary Western politics.
The writer Julia Behr who wrote a really good book on Julia Gillard. I'm just quoting her summary of what she went through. For the three years and three days that Julia Gillard was Prime Minister of
Australia, we debated the fit of her jackets, the size of her bottom, the exposure of her cleavage, the cut of her hair, the tone of her voice, the legitimacy of her rule and whether she had chosen,
as one member of Parliament from the opposition liberal party put it, to be "deliberately barren." Her opponents would circulate in Parliament lewd sexual cartoons about her. The rallying cry of her
critics was "ditch the witch." She would be referred to in the newspapers, all newspapers as Julia as if she was a reality star and not the Head if State of a modern Western democracy. The CEO of a
major Australian company referred to her publically as an "unproductive old cow." One popular restaurant offered on its menu Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail, small breasts, huge thighs, and big
red box. She had red hair. At the end of her term, she gave a speech trying to address the sexism that she felt she had encountered during her time in office and she was denounced for igniting gender
wars, right, as if she started it. The most extraordinary moment happens very late in her term when her father dies and a very popular open line radio host in Australia says on the air that her
father must have died of shame. And surely thereafter in Parliament a member of Parliament stands up and repeats the phrase saying that her government should die of shame.
Now let me point out what's obvious here which is that if she was a man, this would never have happened, right? Never. Right? Something about Gillard provokes a very particular individualized
response. She could not be considered simply as Julia Gillard, politician. She could only be considered in the public conversation as Julia Gillard, female politician and that's Kanter's point.
That's what she's talking about. The token cannot transcend his or her own category. They're imprisoned by their category. At a news conference right after she finally lost when she turned out as
Prime Minister after she has endured months and months of this extraordinary abuse, Gillard stands up and she says, "What I am absolutely confident of is that it will be easier for the next woman and
for the women after that and the woman after that and I'm proud of that." And you could understand why she says that because what she's doing is she's looking for a silver lining. What she's
suggesting is that she's a pioneer. That she took all of these slings and arrows for her gender in order that it would be easier for others to follow her.
But I think it's just as easy to make the opposite case. That what the Gillard experience taught Australian voters was that they didn't want another woman, right? But sometimes the first person
through the door gets judged so harshly that the majority feels justified in saying, "I don't want to do it again. I'm not going to go down that road again," right? They feel justified in dragging up
to old prejudice. They get to say we let a woman in and look what happened. We had a disaster. So that's the first category of token, the demonized token. And you can see how there is a mechanism in
place for someone to come through the door and for the door as a result of them being let in to be closed after them because it makes people realize -- makes people believe that they had made a
mistake in extending that kind of privilege.
But there's another way; there's a second mechanism that plays here that I think is in many ways more devastating that the demonized token. And that's the idealized token. It is not always the case
that the outsider is vilified. Sometimes the outsider is held up for praise for all kinds of support. And that actually turns out to be an equal and in some ways even a more devastating problem. So I
don't know how many of you -- there's a great example of this in a book written by the historian Amos Elon called "The Pity of it All" which is this really fantastic history of the Jews in Germany up
through the 17th Century through the Second World War. And what Elon is interested in is the great paradox Germany's relationship with Jews over the years because he points out, you know, here we
have a country in the mid-20th Century commits this is astonishing atrocity against the Jewish people. Yet, if you look at German history up to that point, what you see is that this is a culture that
time and time again welcomed Jews, in fact, did more than welcomed Jews. This is a culture that time and time again welcomed and celebrated some Jews. In other words the structure of German
anti-Semitism was never about the blanket rejection of old Jews, it was all about the selective rejection of all Jews.
So from the 17th Century onwards many of the most important German principalities had a tradition of court Jews. What was a court Jew? A court Jew was -- most Jews were banned from the city center
except for a small number who you would permit to enter your gates and to mostly do business within the center city of the particular principality, right? You have a group of protected Jews within
the court walls and a group of vulnerable Jews outside the court walls. So a great example, in the 1730's the King of Prussia becomes alarmed of the number of Jews in Berlin. They calls them a plague
of locusts who have descended on the Christians of Berlin. So he banishes Jews from Berlin, but not all Jews. He banishes 140 families and he keeps 120 families. He makes this distinction. The
pattern is repeated again and again and again in the German experience with Jews. You know, one of the most famous Germans of the 18th Century is Moses Mendelssohn. Moses Mendelssohn; he's considered
one of the most brilliant men of Europe. People come to Berlin to pay homage to Moses Mendelssohn. How does he manage to stay in Berlin as a Jew in the 18th Century? Well, because the king grants him
exceptional status. And what is that? Well, Elon says that the king considers him an unJewish Jew. He makes a little separate category for him.
Same thing happens in the 19th Century with Berthold Auerbach. Berthold Auerbach is a Jewish writer in the 19th Century in Germany who is just about the most popular writer in all of Germany in his
day. Turgenev compares him to Dickens. He writes romantic tales about German country life and about Christians living in harmony with Jews and he's celebrated. Richard Wagner, just about as
anti-Semitic a man as you can find in that era loves Berthold Auerbach. He calls him someone rooted in the heart of German life. One of the Brothers Grimm thanked Berthold Auerbach for curing him of
all prejudice. The Germans hate Jews, but they love Berthold Auerbach.
I think what we're seeing here is what the psychologists Daniel Efron and Benoit Monin call moral license. And it's a really interesting series of experiments. What they've done is they have explored
the extent to which we do a kind of moral accounting when we practice good acts. When we do something good, they argue, we then give ourselves license to do something bad to balance it out. It's the
kind of personal-moral equivalent of carbon offsets. And it's a really weird idea because normally when we think of personality, particularly character, we think that what it means to be moral, to be
a moral person is that you are someone who consistently practices moral acts, right? But what Monin and Efron argue is exactly the opposite. That in many cases, practicing a moral act is merely a
justification for practicing an immoral act, right? In other words the Germans did not hate Jews in spite of the fact that they love Berthold Auerbach, they hated Jews because they loved Berthold
Auerbach. That opening the door to one outsider gave them license to hate everybody else. Freed them up to be absolute animals in the way they treated the others of that kind.
If you read any account of Adolf Eichmann, you will see a version, an extreme version of exactly the same process. You know, during the 1930's before the death camps were enacted, the Nazis had a
policy not of exterminating Jews, but of deporting them, right? And the man who is in charge of the deportation of Jews in Austria is Adolf Eichmann. And over the course of the mid to late 30's and
early 1940's, he deports 128,000 Jews from Austria. He's really, really good at it and he puts his incredibly organized brain to work at figuring out the most efficient ways of getting as many Jews
as possible out of Austria. And he figures out this way of getting wealthy Jews to pay for the deportation of poor Jews and he figures out this really fast way to process their claims. In fact,
there's a memoir written by one of the founders of the Mossad, a guy named [INDISCERNIBLE]. He recalls going into Eichmann's office in Vienna in the 1930's and he wanted a thousand passports to get
Jews out. And he was astonished at how quickly his request was granted. Eichmann ushers him in and offers him a seat and ends up issuing a group password for a thousand because they get it done way
more quickly than if they issued individual passports.
During the same time Eichmann teaches himself Hebrew. He visits Jerusalem. He reads Theodor Herzl's classic work on Zionism and says at the time it's the most important book he's ever read. He thinks
himself as a Zionist. He's returning Jews to the homeland. What could be more clear of the evidence of his credentials of a Zionist. When Herzl's grave is desecrated, Eichmann protests and says we
have no right to desecrate this man when there's a ceremony at Herzl's grave marking the 35th anniversary of, you know, the founder of Zionism. Eichmann shows up. He's in the crowd to celebrate the
anniversary of this man's death. And if you read in every account of Eichmann in every biography written of him, there is a moment when the historians try to make sense of his contradiction. Here we
have this man who's like a Zionist and reading Hebrew and visiting Jerusalem and hanging out with rabbis and processing claims as quickly as he can. At the same time but then becomes the architect of
the final solution in the last four years of the war. And they struggled to kind of bring these two halves of Eichmann's personality into some kind of balance. But I don't think you have to do that.
In fact, I think the contradiction is the whole point, right? That what he's doing is a kind of extreme version of the very thing that I've been talking about. He's someone who uses the very small
fact of how many Jews he got out of Germany in the 1930's to morally justify his atrocities in the last four years of the war. He's saying I can't be someone who is as much of a monster as my
colleagues in the Nazi party. Because look at me, I'm the guy who did all this work on behalf of Jews in the 1930's.
He sets up a concentration camp called Theresienstadt. It's really a kind of weigh station before Auschwitz and 33,000 people perish at Theresienstadt. Something like 80,000 are shipped from
Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. And it's Eichmann's home turf. And he sets up at this place of horror, he sets up a library and it's Judaic library. And he loots the great Jewish libraries of Europe and
gathers all this extraordinary Judaica this is library on site at the concentration camp and pure darkly, he goes to Theresienstadt, walks passed people being ushered into the trains to Auschwitz and
the gas chambers and goes and sits in the library and reads extraordinary medieval texts in their original Hebrew.
And when he's finally arrested and brought to trial in Israel in the 1960's, he says, "I have no hatred for Jews." He says, "Even in elementary school I had a Jewish classmate with whom I spent my
free time and he came to our house. A family in Linz by the name of Seba. The last time we met we walked together through the streets of Linz. I already with my Nazi party emblem and he did not think
anything of it. What's he saying? He's saying some of my best friends were Jews. That's exactly what he's saying. But he means it. In his own twisted universe, he's using a version of this very same
principle of moral licensing. It's an incredibly obscene example of something that I think many of us do in some small way which is sometimes we use the fact that we open the door to one person of a
group as justification for closing the door to everybody else.
So back to Elizabeth Thompson. When she submits "Roll Call" to the British Academy, the Academy's in turmoil. They're under an extraordinary amount of fire in British society. There's an enormous
number of painters in England at that time because remember in the 19th Century without photography and without cinema, painters are a huge group. And this group is becoming increasingly
uncomfortable with the fact that their profession is controlled by this very, very small elite group of people. And what made things worse is that the 40 members of the Academy were clearly out of
touch with the rest of society. They were behaving as if they were the only people that mattered. The Burlington House where they had their annual exhibition was way too small which meant that the
enormous percentage of painters who submitted their works to the Academy, the paintings never saw the light of day and Academy never seemed to care. And they were reserving spots for their own
paintings. They were acting in a way that was appalling to the majority.
And by the mid-1870's, the Academy realizes that they have a problem on their hands. That they're facing a revolt and so they look for a way to make themselves seem more open and more liberal. And
what do they find? They find "Roll Call." They find this extraordinary painting painted by this blazing young female talent. And what do they do? Well, they hang it on the line in Category 2 and the
effect is immediate. If you read the newspapers at that time, the big theme that comes through all of the reviews of the Academy show that year is that what the Academy has proven to all of us is
that if you're talented it doesn't matter who you are. And they realize, we've proven to the world we're not this closeted group of old men.
And two years later, she stands for the election to the Royal Academy, the first woman ever to run for that office. She's the most famous artist in Britain at that point. She has this huge public
following and she comes within two votes of being elected. And once again, what is the lesson that everyone draws? The lesson was wait, this was a closed world; now it's open. A woman can come out of
nowhere and basically come this close to get elected and next time there's an election, she's got to be a lock to get in, right? They look at her and say Elizabeth Thompson, pioneer. And I think
that's a very fundamentally human response. We really want pariahs to be turn into pioneers. It fits our romantic notion of progress, right? And it also fits our attachment to the idea that human
beings are consistent. That once we accept one person of a kind that means we're going to accept everyone of that kind. We are invested in that notion. But that's the way we operate as human beings.
But we're not consistent, right? That's what the stories of Julia Gillard and Berthold Auerbach and Adolf Eichmann all tell us. You want to hear something depressing which is that here is a list of
countries who have elected -- broken the gender barrier and elected a woman as head of state and then have never elected another woman as head of state again, okay? Israel, India, Britain, Germany,
Costa Rica, Finland, Nicaragua, Latvia, Panama, Jamaica, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Haiti, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, New Zealand, France, even Canada, pains me to say that. So do you see why I'm
such a pessimist about Hillary Clinton being a pioneer who opens the door to tons of other politicians? It hasn't happened anywhere else.
By the way, while on the subject, here's a list of American cities who have have elected one black mayor and then never elected another black mayor again. Ready? New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Seattle, Charlotte. Can't really get a better, bigger list of American cities than that, right? I'm not convinced we're going to have another black President any time soon. And in retrospect
the warning signs with Elizabeth Thompson were everywhere. You know, the reaction she gets for "Roll Call" is in retrospect very different than the reaction that men were getting. It wasn't just that
people were focused on the painting, they were focused on her, right? They were fixated on her in precisely the way, I think, that Kanter describes. They couldn't stop talking about how young she was
and how beautiful she was.
There's a letter to the Times which says the controversies in the press contribute to the great success and widely advertised, I guess, the picture of Ms. Thompson. It's what they're talking about,
right? Then she stands for election to the Royal Academy and she comes within two votes of getting in. And the Royal Academy says, okay, we've proven that we're moral. And then what do they do? They
go back and make sure that that close shave never happens again. They alter their bylaws to make it virtually impossible for a woman to stand for election as an associate in the British Academy
again, right? And then after the success of "Roll Call," Thompson paints another painting called "Quatre Bras." It's also an absolutely brilliant painting and it captures the imagination of the
public. You know where they hang it? They sky it in the Lecture Room. They put it in the most humiliating place you could possibly put a painting. Why do they do that? Because they know they can get
away with it. Because they've proven in the way they hung "Roll Call" but they're not prejudice, right? We're just making an objective judgment of this particular painting.
And then in 1881, she paints perhaps her most famous painting which is called "Scotland Forever." You're probably familiar with it. It's a scene from the front of a group of English horsemen charging
in the Battle of Waterloo. It's never even shown at the Royal Academy. Never even gets in the door. In fact, she never stands for election again to the Royal Academy. In fact, no woman would be
elected to the Royal Academy until 1936, nearly half a century later. And when that happened people stood up and they said okay, this is the turning point. Now we have a situation where the door is
going to finally be opened to women in world of art. But of course, it's shut again. Do you know what percentage of artworks hanging in major American museums where they were painted by women? Five
percent. Five percent.
Elizabeth Thompson marries an English army officer named William Butler and she changed her name. She becomes Elizabeth Butler. She raises five children and her career takes a backseat to his. In his
memoirs, he writes his memoirs; her husband who is married to a woman who was for a long period the most famous artist in all of England mentions his wife's name not once in 455 pages. But what does
she do? Well, she's a woman of her time and she accepts that this is the way things are going to be. And then she writes her own memoirs and in her memoirs do you know how many words she devotes to
that moment where she nearly got elected to the Royal Academy, the first woman ever to come that close? Four sentences, ending with the sentence and I think this is one of the saddest sentences that
I've ever read. "As it turned out, in 1879, I lost my election by two votes only. Since then, I think the door has been closed and wisely." [APPLAUSE]
I'm still standing here not just to soak up your applause but because I think we have time for some questions. I think there are microphones in the aisle should anyone want to talk about anything
related to art or otherwise. Here we are. Here's the first.
>> Me? Oh, hi. Hi. Of course, this phenomenon, you know, I think we've seen it quite a bit. You know, I don't disagree with that. But one of the things I find really interesting is the fact that Obama
was reelected. People that I know had said the same thing; okay, he's going to be the first African-American elected, the economy went down the drain, they're going to blame him for it, and then he's
not going to be reelected. But he was.
>> Yeah.
>> And so much has been said about the fact that he had this big technology machine, I guess, I just wanted to comment on that. What might be intervening factors? Yeah.
>> So interestingly is Maggie Thatcher, right. So the British go back for more and more and then they close the door. We haven't had women since. I don't have a good explanation of that. But I wonder
whether there may be some kind of process by which you want to reinforce your bona fides before you turn your back on the token; that you might want to make it clear that maybe people are sensitive
on some unconscious levels of the notion but they may be -- what they're doing is just a flash in the plan. And they want to prove to the world, no, no, no, I'm serious, I voted twice for Obama
before I went back and -- I don't know. It's an interesting question. Or maybe it is that once you have accepted that individual you have permanently opened the door to that individual. It's just
others you're not going to accept which I think is probably when I think of Thatcher's experience in England that's what I think of; that they've already, okay, she's in, I'm fine, I can deal with
her. It's just that I won't accept another woman perhaps. But it's a good question.
>> I think elections are very different than genius and half of the electorate is women. I don't think you can say the door has been closed after Thatcher. It's much too soon. Half the electorate is
still women. And so I think it's a really interesting lecture. Thank you very much for it. There was so much else that was interesting along the way, but I don't think the thesis is likely to hold.
>> Yeah. I would just say, first of all, this is not the first time nor the last time someone has told me the thesis is not likely to hold, so it is a comment that I'm familiar with and take with --
I've almost gotten used to it by this point. No, I think you're right. So for the sake of -- were I to step back and redo that or at a longer level, I think you're right that we have to separate out
private and public mechanisms of tokenism. So an election is a public mechanism tokenism. And you're right, it's complicated because you wouldn't think the same arguments would obtain in a world
where half the electorate is female. Where as in an old -- of we're talking about women on Wall Street where we saw beautiful illustrations of tokenism in place after the financial crisis where
basically every major bank had one woman in a senior position and they got rid of them the instant the crisis hit, right? Purged the women. It was an astonishing thing. That's a very different
mechanism when you have an old boy's network in place which said, "Okay, I had a female treasurer from 2001 to 2006. Look what happened. Now I've gone back to hiring my buddies from Dartmouth. I
didn't mean to pick on Dartmouth. But it always strikes casually that an astonishing number of senior finance people went to Dartmouth. So yeah. So I would love to think more on -- I don't know that
I understand particularly the, you know, in a way that's satisfying to me what the difference is between this electoral dynamic and this kind of club. But I think you're right that there's something
different and it's certainly a way more puzzling that you see these patterns in elections than you see them in private, but it may just be a matter of time.
>> Yeah, not surprisingly I, too, think you're wrong. I think there have been, we'll call them, infrastructural changes in America over the last 20 or 30 or 40 years driven by grass roots movement
which has dramatically changed the institutional organizational structure of America and its culture to the point I think we're ready to accept a female President. We don't see Hillary Clinton as
exceptional. Thompson was unique and exceptional. Hillary Clinton is not. There are other Hillary Clintons behind her. And I think that's a very different kind of phenomenon than you are describing.
So I believe you're wrong for reasons like that -- for structural reasons. You can forgive him for not understanding structural reasons because you're not a sociologist and I forgive you for that.
>> No, I mean nothing makes me happier than to be given an honest critique by someone who knows more than me. So I guess the difference between you and me is probably that you are a lot more
optimistic than I am. If there are other Hillary Clintons behind Hillary, where are they? No, but I mean -- if we look at the pool of potential female candidates, it's a lot smaller than the pool of
potential male candidates. And that is an observation worthy of explanation. Now, it may be that the pool is sufficiently large and that I'm just being a pessimist, but I don't know. I would have
thought that at any given moment that if you would have asked me in 1984 when I graduated from college whether in 2014 there would be, you know, only small number of potential female Presidential
Candidates in the United States, I would have said you were crazy, right? So from my own personal standpoint, maybe it's completely idiosyncratic and wrong. I'm disappointed by the size of the
available pool. I'm not as heartened as -- but that just may be that maybe that I'm too much in a hurry and it may be that I am not significantly sensitive to structural, as you point out, to
structural things.
>> Thank you for showing us what it means to be public sociologist in hard times. [APPLAUSE] Can you offer some interpretation of that painful last word in Thompson's sentence "and wisely?"
>> "And wisely." I think she gives up. I think she was soundly defeated by her experience. So she writes her autobiography in, if memory serves, either the early 1820's or late teens. So in the 1870's
she nearly gets elected to the British Academy and by the time she's writing her memoirs, no woman has stood for election since. So she's had nearly 50 years to observe that her trail blazing
amounted to nothing. And I think that and then the fact that -- I found the fact that her husband's autobiography never once mentions her so astonishing. And maybe again I'm being naive. I don't know
enough about the 19th Century, about male attitudes. But I'm sorry, your wife is a hundred times -- he was like a loser. I'm serious. He was a failed British colonial officer who gets a knighthood
because he knew someone who knew someone who knew someone. I mean there's nothing interesting or spectacular or all together distinguished about his career. His wife is at one point one of the most
famous artists in all of England. How does that not come up in your autobiography? I mean so here's a woman living with that, right? I just think that she gave up. When I come back to this question
of why do I think that the field of availability female candidates in politics is smaller than it should be, I think that's what's happening on a certain -- I think that how can you not look at the
experience of Julia Gillard in Australia and say to yourself, if you're a female candidate, do I really want to go through that? Look at what Hillary Clinton went through the last time we went
through this.
I know people who worked for the New York Times. If you go back and do a systematic analysis of the stories the New York Times wrote about Hillary Clinton versus the stories they wrote about other
political candidates, here is the most liberal institution, major media institution, if not in America in the world practically, right? This is the bastion of liberalness. If you think there is
equivalency between the way they treated her and male candidates, you are smoking crack. They had articles on her hairstyle and I mean it was like we were living through the 1950's. And by the way,
half these articles were established at a time when the political editor of the New York Times was a woman. Now, I'm sorry. You can't look at that and say that doesn't have consequences. If I'm a
potential female candidate I don't look at that and say why would I go through that? You know, Hillary Clinton is an issue in the Presidency of Bill Clinton in a way that no female wife of a
President has ever been. Why? Because she had political ambitions. That's the only reason, right? Betty Ford didn't have her financial dealings written about at exhaustive length in New York Time.
No. Did Rosalynn Carter have someone spending two years combing through every steps she ever made back in Plains, Georgia? No. If you don't think there's a double standard there, you're dreaming. I
think people see that; women see that and they just say why would do I that? And I don't blame them on a certain level. There are consequences to these kinds of psychological conditions. And I as
someone who is really a refugee from the world of psychology, I'll take your sociological institutions and I'll raise you psychological constraints. [Laughter] [APPLAUSE]
>> Hello. Honestly, I made up my mind if I believe your thesis or not, but you already mentioned the issue of low numbers of potential candidates of people of color and women. And I do want to bring
up the point is why wouldn't as a society, why didn't you mention any potential women of color? I love the story of Elizabeth but absolutely no mention. And they never mentioned possibly Michelle
Obama possibly being elected.
>> Yeah. Well, I think that we could do a whole separate analysis of this where we compound categories. So I've been talking about simple categories here of gender or ethnicity. But when you want to
talk in America about when you mix color and gender then I think the picture gets even more complicated and fascinating. I don't presume to have an answer to how that plays out. I happen to think
weirdly -- not weirdly -- I happen to think that we're probably more likely to see a female African-American achieve high political office in this country than we are to see another male
African-American. I'm not sure why I think that, but that would be my gut. I would be curious to know what others think about that. But I do think you're absolutely right; there is an interesting
interaction between those categories. You can start layering in these things and the difficulties and constraints deepen.
>> Yeah, I think you posed a compelling argument. And I think that what's hard to convince a room of sociologists is that the same processes that are going on at the individual level also apply at the
microsocietal level. It's a debate that in a certain sense defines our field which is the structure versus agency debate and we haven't resolved it yet. If someone wants to take me to task on that,
you're welcome to. But I just want to sort of pose another postulation as something that might be going on here which is maybe a slightly less cynical view, but I think that people really are
invested in that token success, right? That people really are invested and excited about the first black President, the first female President and maybe what it is, is that there's a difference in
motivation that changes after that first person is elected. There's a lot of excitement and so there's a lot of energy about getting the first person elected. But once you have the first person
elected, you can't really build up that same level of motivation. Perhaps that's what's going on or perhaps people don't see necessarily -- maybe they're not compelled in the same way to put the same
level of umpf into it the second time around. So it's just a postulation.
>> Yeah, it's interesting. I would say to contrast that though. So we have cases of genuine pioneers. So Jackie Robinson plays first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the league does not relax and
say, okay, we're done. We don't want any more black people. They start hiring legions of black ball players from the Negro leagues. So I wish I understand better what the difference between cases
where pioneers are real pioneers. Oh, sorry. Cases where prize become pioneers and cases where prize become tokens. I don't. I don't have a good answer to what the distinction is. But I like that
argument that in some cases we relax and say the job is done and in some cases we say a whole new world has opened up and we're going to permanently change our behavior. And I don't have a good
explanation for what distinguishes those two conditions. So I would say to you I would love to know, so when don't we relax? When do we say I want to work hard for the next one, too? I don't know
what the answer is. It's really interesting though.
>> I find your argument compelling and --
>> Can I just say I wasn't sure whether everyone caught that. The questioner said I found your argument is compelling. I just want to make sure that we're all following along with the comment. Just
>> And there is a structural basis and I do believe that as long as you have a system that has power relations that judge on the basis of profit, gross national product, using labor not for quality of
kidding. Go on, sir.
life, then you have power relations that promotes sexism, racism, homophobia, classism. And when you have a system like that, then it is very easy then to use tokens. It was done in slavery. It
continues today. And I think you make a very compelling structural argument and sociological argument. I recently saw the sociological study that says that a large majority of the jobs in this
country are not as a result of your qualifications, but are as a result of who you know and especially if they have power.
>> Yeah. Yeah.
>> So it's the argument of tokenism is very compelling. [APPLAUSE]
>> I rest my case. If I had sense of occasion, I would stop all the questions now. It can really only go downhill from here. Let's take three more provided they are questions that talk about how
compelling my arguments are. Here, over here.
>> Hi. I don't mean to offend with this question. I was just wondering what you think about the fact that -- and I don't mean to apply this ecumenically either that the people who have come up to
disagree with your thesis are white males who likely have never experienced tokenism before. [APPLAUSE] And what that means for the obdurateness of this phenomena.
>> Yeah, I agree. [APPLAUSE]
>> Well, there's really no way for me to answer that question without offending 50% of the room, is there? Yeah, so we are constantly reminded of how difficult it is to stand in someone else's shoes,
right? That's a truly obvious kind of almost [INDISCERNIBLE] point, but one that is so routinely forgotten and neglected. That, you know, that if you grow up -- let me personalize this. I grew up in
a household where my mother is Jamaican. Where race was a topic of discussion and where it was a routine matter for my mother and members of my mother's family to talk about this issue that not only
was she black, but she's a woman. And that meant that the world treated her in a very different way. And had I not had the example of my mother, I don't know whether -- for example, if I would have
given this talk tonight. I don't know whether it would have occur to me that this was an issue in quite the same way. It's the thing that I love about and I hate to once again to diss your world, but
the thing that I love so much about psychology is that psychology is constantly reminding us of the importance and privacy of personal experience as an engine of your own beliefs. And that's not the
whole story, but there's a huge part of the story. That there's something radically subjective about the way we see the world and we forget that fact at our peril, right. So, I'm with you.
Absolutely. [APPLAUSE] All right, you're second last.
>> Okay. So I just wanted to provide another historical example that kind of encourages and promotes your point. So in the mid-1800's, a woman Ellen White she founded a church called Seventh Day
Adventism. They considered her a prophet, they saw her as a leader, they saw her as the authority for the church. But since then women have been relegated to having no positions of authority. They
are now, a hundred years after her death, thinking about, oh, maybe we should ordain women. People who are in support of ordaining women look at Ellen White as an example. Look, a woman founded our
church. Why aren't we giving women a position of authority? People who oppose that say, well, she was a prophet, she wasn't a pastor. So she was qualitatively different. She was a special case. So
she had authority, but other women shouldn't.
>> Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's a really interesting -- [APPLAUSE] All right. You are the --
>> The last one?
>> Last one.
>> So where would you say pioneers and tokens fall into your ideas about outliers? Are they both considered to be examples of outliers? Just tokens? Just pioneers?
>> Oh. You're asking me to impose some kind of logical consistency on my body of work. [Laughter] And I have never pretended that these things all fit together. In fact, I rather pride myself on the
extent to which things I write today contradict things that I wrote yesterday.
>> So I have no idea. In "Outliers" I was just interested in -- actually "Outliers," by the way, was a work of sociology in which, you know, I was diminishing the individual contribution and
>> Fair enough.
privileging the institutional and generational and cultural contribution to success. But I will say this. You know, in seriousness, since writing that book -- the last book I wrote, "David and
Goliath," is in some sense is a response to "Outliers." It's a corrective. And this argument that I made this evening is also a corrective. What interested me after I wrote "Outliers" was all of the
cases in which the argument of outliers is not true. So "Outliers" said that your success in the world is a kind of a cumulative effect of all of your advantages and I think that's true most of the
time. But there are really interesting exceptions. And the last book says let's explore the exceptions. This is also an exception because it says that it's another way in which success can boomerang,
success for other groups can boomerang and end up hurting those who follow. That's like it's a deeply counter intuitive notion. That's why I think this idea of tokenism is so kind of insidious.
People are very, very happy to embrace the outliers argument that you just total up all of the things you have going for you and that's what accounts for your success because it works 85% of the
time. But what they don't want to grapple with is that those cases where is it doesn't work, and those cases that it doesn't work, I think, are morally way more problematic than those cases where it
does. What happens when you do all the right things and you get shot down? That's where I sort of ended up with the last book and where I'm ending up here. And it is much less popular territory. But
I think it's ultimately much more -- it may be more meaningful and interesting. But anyway, thank you. This was really fun. [APPLAUSE]