If I have a makefile I have to use that is using recursive make, is there an easy option to disable that?
No. If you invoke
make even once in
Makefile, it would be called a recursive make. There's no easy option in GNU Make to prevent it.
Once you read the paper mentioned in your post, you could understand it's determined by how you write
Makefiles whether the make is recursive or non-recursive.
Linux kernel build system would be one of the most famous applications of traditional recursive make in large scale. Android build system is a good example of non-recursive make, which is explicitly addressing problems of recursive make. Both build systems are exploiting GNU Make specific features intensively.