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Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas Hardcover – March 18, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476726620
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476726625
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Legal scholar Sunstein has assembled “the most controversial” of his academic articles. And the key word here is academic. These aren’t pieces written for general audiences; each of them was written for a specific readership (an essay about cost-benefit analysis was originally published in The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy), and it’s doubtful many readers who pick up this book will be among the target audience for all of its 11 essays. Maybe treat the book like a buffet: pick the items that appeal to you. Here, for example, is a very interesting article about conspiracy theories, in which the author examines not just the truth or falsehood of such theories but also their purpose within society and the standards by which we accept or reject them. Here’s an excerpt from the author’s 2004 book The Second Bill of Rights, in which Sunstein examined FDR’s 1944 State of the Union speech. Here’s “Marriage,” a look at the meaning of the “right to marry” and its logical extensions (does a constitutional right to marry necessarily include same-sex marriage?). By no means an easy-breezy collection, the book absolutely requires us to pay close attention to what the author is saying and to be prepared to engage in some pretty serious intellectual debate. If that’s your cup of tea, then drink up. --David Pitt

Review

“Glenn Beck has described Cass Sunstein as ‘the most dangerous man in America,’ but the 11 essays collected in ‘Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas’ actually reveal him to be a pretty reasonable guy. He is often provocative but never extreme, and the foaming at the mouth he induces says more about our polarized politics than it does about his ideas…Sunstein is an advocate for what works and a skeptic of grand ideologies that sound good on paper but then wreak havoc in the real world…Throughout the 11 essays in this book, Sunstein is a clear-eyed guide through some of the thornier issues of our day.” (Boston Globe)

“Sunstein seemingly never runs out of ideas….He is a careful thinker and a clear writer.” (Kirkus)

"Sunstein will infuriate partisans on both sides with his even-handedness and his simultaneous embrace of active government and criticism of its excesses. The result is a stimulating exposition of the virtues—and dynamism—of moderation." (Publishers Marketplace)

“A book written to make you think, not tell you what to think…. Neither the devil of Glenn Beck's nightmares nor the revolutionary of radical left, [Sunstein] uses his studies to navigate the chaos of public policy in the modern age." (Seattlepi.com)

“Sunstein has done more than any other scholar to bring cognitive insights to bear on basic questions of law and public policy, and for that he deserves our thanks…He is careful, deliberative, and painstaking.” (The Atlantic)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Edwin Barkdoll on January 18, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I'm grateful that I didn't bother to read the negative reviews before choosing to buy this excellent book. While the essays might seem disparate, this book could be a primer in critical thinking, offering insightful, important, timely, and often convergent thinking, solutions, ideas, and habits of mind. I'm making this book required reading for my graduate students in humane education whose work is to prepare their students to be solutionaries for a better world. This can't be done without careful, methodical critical and creative thinking which Cass Sunstein models on every page.
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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful By W. Wilson on April 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ignore the one-star reviewers who have not actually read this level-headed exploration of the consequences of false conspiracy theories in the heads of those who would be provoked to violence. Sunstein, like his former boss Barack Obama in _The Audacity of Hope,_ is reasonable - not at all the extremist he's accused of being but level-headed as a sober Founding Father. This exposition on not only the effects of conspiracy theories but a revisiting of his previous book on Franklin D. Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights, among other topics, is terrific food for thought. There's no need for me to go over the other topics this book covers: it would be spoiler material. Just check out the table of contents. Rest assured, Sunstein stays on point and engages.
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17 of 30 people found the following review helpful By PKH on April 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like the insight into how these conspiracy theories get a life. Telling people want they want to hear is a whole lot easier than sticking with the truth.
This is not an easy read, it's not something I would recommend for it's entertainment value. But if you want some insight into peoples thought processes it's a good bit of education.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Hermit on April 10, 2015
Format: Hardcover
It's pretty sad that all kinds of pseudoscientific bulls*** is often confused with practical, hardcore science. This author clearly wants my money and whenever a coincidence theorist passes me by I think about my wallet. They deny political corruption and call counterterrorism 'conspiracy theorizing'and then proceed to ban counterterrorism while claiming openly to support it. They don't care about facts and governments should cease funding them. We don't need those damn coincidence theorists to ruin food and water supplies 'in the name of science'. Any self - respecting modern day government would not let coincidence theorists make decisions for themselves and unfortunately some governments do that still - like in the U.S. where warmers are allowed to cotnrol the global warming debate while asking people who're skeptical about global warming to 'stay away from science'. Pseudoscience has clearly still not left the mainstream despite everybody knows about the dangers of snake oil salesmen and nigerian scammers. If I was the author I'd republish the book under the name 'I want your money! Criticism of nigerian scammers and snake oil salesmen and other dangerous ideas'.
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14 of 27 people found the following review helpful By heather on April 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Cass Sunstein writes books to make you think. You don't have to agree with the ideas, but he does make you think. His political ties to Obama should not make any difference to his writing and whatever political party you are should not make any difference. You will either like this book or hate it, but at least there is the freedom of speech to write such a book.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Raimundo Figueroa on June 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sustein disclosed the lack of transparency in our era. Great book with the idea we need at this time and time
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52 of 125 people found the following review helpful By robbie eisler on March 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a nonsensical approach to a subject that throws the baby out with the bathwater. It is a wholesale, hackneyed, down-the-line mainstream piece of propaganda that sophistically mixes clearly insane, paranoid conspiracy theories with certainly plausible ones. It's as if he keeps hoping the uninformed and the misinformed will continue to stay uninformed and misinformed--and manipulated. But, who, two years ago, would have thought the leader of Germany's conversations with her grandchildren were being recorded by an American governmental agency or that British intelligence would have tens of thousands of film frames of nude people on Yahoo webcams? We live in an age where the implausible and the outrageous unfortunately sometime turn out to be even more outrageous than one could have imagined. Sunstein, a Martha's Vineyard sycophant, has no time for these thoughts.
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45 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Vic on March 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm going to repost an anonymous comment I saw recently on one of Sunstein's opinion pieces in Bloomberg News' Newsday:

"Here's a conspiracy theory for you: The brief bio of Sunstein that Newsday provides fails to mention, quite revealingly, is that Cass Sunstein served in the Obama administration as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He was hired a year after he and a co-author wrote this in a Harvard scholarly paper (aptly titled 'conspiracy theories'):

"We can readily imagine a series of possible responses [to inconvenient conspiracy theories]

(1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing.
(2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories.
(3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories.
(4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech.
(5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help."

I thought it was an excellent summary of Mr. Sunstein -- you read that proposed treatment of those who dare to be concerned about drinking flouride in their water everyday, or who dare to wonder if their cell phones might ultimately contribute to brain cancer, and you suddenly understand a great deal about Cass Sunstein with only a very brief investment of time.
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