"Why is it that some ideas or behaviors or products start epidemics and others don't? And what can we do to deliberately start and control positive epidemics of our own?"


While working as a journalist for The Washington Post, Gladwell had thoroughly covered the AIDS/HIV epidemic and had taken an interest in the reasons why AIDS had spontaneously spread so rapidly and turned from a rare disease affecting a few individuals to a wide spread epidemic. The sharp change in the crime rate in New York City in the mid 1990's also played an influential role in the creation of The Tipping Point by sparking an interest in epidemics in Gladwell. When asked about his writing, Gladwell stated that "I have two parallel things I'm interested in. One is, I'm interested in collecting interesting stories, and the other is I'm interested in collecting interesting research. What I'm looking for is cases where they overlap." Gladwell's coverage on AIDS during his time at The Washington Post successfully satisfied both of his interests, helping to spur on his creation of the novel. A major influence on Gladwell's analysis as to why the "tipping point" occurs was Six Degrees of Separation (1967), a study by social psychologist Stanley Milgram.

giuliani20violent20crime20chart.jpg aidsribbon.gif 734px-Six_degrees_of_separation_270x220.png

Central Argument:

The central argument that Gladwell advances in The Tipping Point is that the best way to understand the emergence of trends, the popularity of products, the flow of crime or the increase in a habit is to view it as an epidemic. Gladwell defines epidemics as "a function of the people who transmit infectious agents, the infectious agent itself, and the environment in which the infectious agent is operating." There are many parallels between traditional viruses such as the flu and many of today's modern trends and occurrences; they are both contagious and spread and are spread through networks of people by individuals who play specific roles.



Gladwell received a $1.5 million advance for The Tipping Point. Gladwell's popularity soared after the book's release and he was able to get up to $40,000 for each lecture he gave.

Gladwell on The Tipping Point: 0:00-0:43

< Back: The Power of Context | Next: The Impact of The Tipping Point>