Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Tipping Point

Often mentioned in the same breath as 'Freakonomics', Malcolm Gladwell's 'The Tipping Point' tries to get to the heart of cultural epidemics, whether they be a new fad for hushpuppies, the huge success of 'Sesame Street', or the wave of street crime that dominated New York in the 80's. They do say that you can use statistics to prove anything and I believe that's a healthy point to bear in mind while reading this. Gladwell is free with his allusions to popular psychology experiments (eg. work by Milgram) and so it all has the veneer of unassailable truth. However, he also seems to have learned a great deal of his writing style from Goebbels, repeating previous points and cases again and again, filling up pages and forcing our consent through sheer weight of repetition. I get a little worried when I see that. There is a lot to be gleaned from his persuasive arguments, but this is pop sociology after all. You really should take Gladwell's arguments on board only if you intend to look a little deeper into the established literature. Interesting though.

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