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Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds (Wordsworth Reference) Paperback – December 5, 1999
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Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into hare-brained speculative frenzies--only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? We may think that the Great Crash of 1929, junk bonds of the '80s, and over-valued high-tech stocks of the '90s are peculiarly 20th century aberrations, but Mackay's classic--first published in 1841--shows that the madness and confusion of crowds knows no limits, and has no temporal bounds. These are extraordinarily illuminating,and, unfortunately, entertaining tales of chicanery, greed and naivete. Essential reading for any student of human nature or the transmission of ideas.
In fact, cases such as Tulipomania in 1624--when Tulip bulbs traded at a higher price than gold--suggest the existence of what I would dub "Mackay's Law of Mass Action:" when it comes to the effect of social behavior on the intelligence of individuals, 1+1 is often less than 2, and sometimes considerably less than 0. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"This classic and still relevant study contains important messages that apply to investor's behavior today." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
B. But be careful which of the many offerings you buy.
First off, many of the editions in Amazon are partial reprints of the original 1841 edition. Anything with 200 or so pages is badly incomplete. The book you want must have all 16 chapters.
Second, most of the print editions, especially those claiming about 400-odd pages, are complete, but have type so small as to severely limit your reading pleasure. You must understand there is no copyright protection for the original English author so anyone can rip it off, and to make the most money many of these "artists" try to print as few literal pages as possible. The two editions I have bought (in 1967 at a bookstore and 2003 on Amazon), both published in London, have about 700 pages, including the dozen or so original hand illustrations. This is the print edition you want.
Third, to solve the type-size problem, acquiring a Kindle edition can be a good answer. It can also be priced as cheaply as 99 cents or even 0. But beware of what it contains as well. When I clicked on the Kindle version of a complete 16-chapter print version (the one on which I am writing this review) it turned out that the free Kindle version was shorted to just a few chapters, which I was able to discover only after I downloaded it
Fourth, the completely independent book, Gustave Le Bon's "The Crowd", originally published in 1895 is equally worth reading.
You'll love both books; make sure you actually enjoy them and get the whole things, as well.
The simple fact of delusional actions impacting the masses has never been far from the headlines. This book helps bring that fact into sharper focus.
Even though these stories took place over a century ago, they're still relevant today, as stuff like this keeps happening all the time!
The book has gathered a body of academic support as a work of considerable importance in the history of social psychology and psychopathology. The topics MacKay covers include economic bubbles, alchemy, crusades, witch-hunts, prophecies, fortune-telling, magnetisers (influence of imagination in curing disease), shape of hair and beard (influence of politics and religion on), murder through poisoning, haunted houses, popular follies of great cities, popular admiration of great thieves, duels, and relics. A bit too much time is spent on Alchemy in my opinion and I skipped over the last of this segment.
Of humorous interest is the Tulip Bubble that took place in Holland and nearly ruined that economy when it burst. It did, at minimum, dash many fortunes and mirrors almost exactly what took place here in the United States when the housing bubble brought down banks, insurance companies, Wall Street firms and virtually wiped out the middle class in 2008.
The book is a worthy read, albeit a bit chewy. Should you be the sort to follow politics and movements in the United States this book will likely hold your interest and be an enjoyable read.
Most recent customer reviews
Buyer beware, this is just the index to Mackay's book, not the book itself.
Don't waste the 99 cents you'll spend to find this out.