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Book Review: The Tipping Point

In The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell outlines his theory of how trends and ideas jump from the forward edge of society into the mainstream. Throughout the book Malcolm describes the required three types of people, the way context changes everything and how the stickiness of the message make the difference between being ignored and being huge.

Malcolm Gladwell does an excellent job illustrating his theory with vibrant examples and life stories. Everything seems to be a covered, from Paul Revere’s ride to Airwalk shoes. One example is particularly interesting because it was covered from a totally oposite angle in Freakonomics, the New York abrupt crime drop in the 1990s. The drop in New York was sooner, faster and more abrupt than most anywhere else in the USA. Levitt and Dubner argue the tipping factor that made New York’s crime rate start falling in 1990 was the legalization of abortion 20 years before, in 1970. As usual, their case is fully backed by numbers and statistics leaves no margin for doubt. Gladwell on the other hand looks at the social side of the equation and point to one specific event and a context change. Near Christmas of 1984 one seemingly middle class white man got on the crime infested NY subway and made himself an easy target for 4 young black muggers. He then proceded to shoot all 4 with a revolver. Shortly after the New York Transit Authority started a new policy of creating a no-crime context in the subway, cleaning up the cars and cracking down on fare beating. According to Gladwell the way the shooting event was iconic and the change of context changed the criminal prevailing mindset into an order mindset.
Did the social effects Gladwell describes shave a few percentage points off the impact of abortion ? Is Levitt’s explanation the whole story and extraordinary events and context don’t make a difference in the long run ? (truth be told, Levitt’s statistics are well anchored in nationwide data so there isn’t a considerable margin for error there. can both explanations be related and not oposed ?)

Buy The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference from Amazon UK.

/books | edited on 2009/01/18 -- permalink, click to comment
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