Reaction Essay

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THE TIPPING POINT The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas, products, messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do. Though this epidemic metaphor of Malcolm Gladwell's is interesting and offers a new, and somewhat helpful, perspective for considering human behavior, it is ultimately pretty circular and of rather severely limited utility. Similarly, though much of what Gladwell has to say in the book is fresh and on first glance exciting, upon further consideration many of his claims fall flat. In particular, his seeming desire to offer a third way of looking at human behavior, neither conservative, with its emphasis on morality, nor liberal, with its emphasis on material conditions, fails miserably as one section after another of the book confirms conservative dogma. Gladwell's basic argument, deficient analysis, and unintentional confirmation of conservatism are evident in his discussion of how New York City broke its crime epidemic. He first charts the explosive growth of crime in the City and the nearly primitive conditions it created, culminating in the Berhard Goetz incident, with an otherwise model citizen forced to take the law into his own hands and receiving the approval of a jury for his action. By 1992 there were 2,154 murders and over 600,000 serious crimes in one year in New York City. But then crime begin to fall precipitously, with murder falling by 60+ percent and all serious crime by over 50%. Gladwell hypothesizes that there are basically three rules which

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