The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell

by

Jack Shields

Context

Biography of the author

Malcolm Gladwell is a renowned author born on the 3rd of September 1963 in Fareham, England. His parents, Graham and Joyce Gladwell, were a mathematics professor and a psychotherapist respectively. At six, Malcolm and his family moved to Ontario Canada where they spent the better half of their lives. It is here in Ontario that Gladwell’s interest in reading literature first arose since he would frequently visit his father’s office at the University of Waterloo and interact with numerous books from the institution’s library. While at school, Gladwell was an active sportsman who participated in athletics. In 1978, for instance, he participated and won the 1500m race held at Ontario High school.  In the course of studying history at the University of Toronto, Malcolm became an intern at the National Journalism Centre before graduating with a degree in history two years later.

Gladwell is globally recognized for various works. Firstly, he has been writing for the New Yorker periodical since 1996. Gladwell has also previously worked with the Washington Post as a contributor and a writer. While working with the New Yorker, he was awarded the National Magazine Award for his piece entitled “The Pitchman.”Gladwell has authored various books including Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink that have all been ranked among the best-selling books by the New York Times.

Context

The book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, was written by Malcolm Gladwell in 2001. In the book, Gladwell uses the phrase the ‘tipping point’to refer to a moment when an idea or concept takes off to become popular. However, the phrase has a rich history and was first used by a sociologist by the name of Morton Grodzins who adopted the term from physics. Grodzins used the tipping point concept when he analyzed demographic changes in the suburban neighborhoods of America. The phrase was also used by Everett Rogers in his theory of change or what is commonly referred to as the ‘diffusion of innovations’in 1995. Other fields of study have used the tipping point, but it became globally known through Gladwell's work which analyzed societal changes as social epidemics. Gladwell was particularly interested in the concept of the tipping point while researching AIDS. He noticed a specific pattern in how the disease spread from one region to another across the globe.

The book is an intellectual narrative in the category of nonfiction books that address issues related to Social Sciences and Psychology using cultural examples. Even though some theorist such as Dubner and Levitt have disputed Gladwell’s theories especially regarding the sharp decline of crimes in New York City, Gladwell maintains that stories such as those used in this book are an exciting way of sharing knowledge especially when facts are nearly or close to none. Gladwell, therefore, provides an analysis of the three major contributors that make an idea reach the tipping point: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the environment within which the idea is nurtured. Malcolm further uses historical evidence to support his arguments.

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