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Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds Paperback – Jul 25 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; New edition edition (July 25 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 051788433X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517884331
  • Product Dimensions: 15.1 x 3.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 748 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #371,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Charles Mackay was a British poet, journalist, and songwriter. He was born in Perth, Scotland, and educated at the Royal Caledonian Asylum, London, and at Brussels, but spent much of his early life in France. Coming to London in 1834, he engaged in journalism, working for The Morning Chronical from 1835 to 1844 and then became editor of The Glasgow Argus. He moved to The Illustrated London News in 1848, becoming editor in 1852.

He published Songs and Poems (1834), wrote a History of London, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and a romance, Longbeard. He is also remembered for his Dictionary of Lowland Scotch.

His fame, however, chiefly rests upon his songs, some of which, including Cheer, Boys, Cheer, were in 1846 set to music by Henry Russell, and had an astonishing popularity. Mackay acted as Times correspondent during the American Civil War, and in that capacity discovered and disclosed the Fenian conspiracy. He had the degree of LLD from Glasgow in 1846. He was a member of the Percy Society.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hans Castorp on Feb. 17 2004
Format: Paperback
Some fine reviews here, but my main point is how relevent this amazing book is even after 16-plus years! It's so well-written and current (up to the 1840's anyway), you could almost think it was written today! The tulip hysteria in 1640's Holland is so famous some recent novels have been written about it! But the 2 best parts are the Crusades, and the Witchhunting sections, both religious-based mass hysteria. In the author's introduction ,he states that religious hysteria and delusions are so numerous he can barely scratch the surface! And think what's happened since 1842! The book is a bit dense at times, but you'll be amazed at the mass delusions described, sometimes resulting in mass slaughter, notably in the "Crusades" chapter. But this book should be familiar to every educated person, and will always be a classic!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Armstrong on Nov. 24 2003
Format: Hardcover
While this book is somewhat difficult reading, being written in Dickensian Olde English (and you certainly don't have to read all of it to get the point) it should be required reading for every college student. Enron employees, who sunk their entire life savings' into one stock, would've also benefited from a thorough reading of this. Luckily, if you're young and you haven't read this yet, you don't have to join the ranks of the 401k-less ninnies who bought into all the hype of the late nineties.
If you are like most of us, you probably had a cube-mate who fashioned him/herself as a "Wall Street wizard" at some point in 1998; you probably had a good laugh as you watched an E*Trade commercial from around that era where the TV-addled couch potato chooses his stock picks based on what's being marketed to him on TV. Personally, I recall one example where a co-worker invested the entire contents of his children's college fund on a single stock purchase, bragging about his profits from said transaction to everyone! Never mind the fact that he could have very well left Johnny and Jenny putting themselves through the local community college and living at home; this was 1998, after all - the "New Economy" was going to transcend all of the limits that 'unprogressive' thinkers had ascribed to all earlier versions of the economy. The question is: are you going to believe the mucky-muck hack/establishment economist at _Barron's_, or learn lessons from history? This book is for those who prefer the latter.
This book is really a classic in critical thinking. Having read this around age 19, I couldn't help but think that the "New Economy" was mostly a bunch of balderdash and that nothing can permanently transcend fundamental economic principles. In fact, the .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Burger on Dec 28 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought this book primarily for the chapters on financial delusions, the first 120 or so pages of 740 page book. The finacial manias are well covered, and provided very valuable historical information for anyone who owns any investmensts of any kind. The themes behind these delusions are very interesting, and you can see these problems repeating today.
The rest of the book provides some very good historical information about various other manias. It was interesting, and I read most of the other chapters which were very interesting, but it is a 740 page book and I found myself skipping over portions of some of the later chapters.
I really liked that this book was written over 160 years ago. It focused on parts of world history I did not know enough about and I am glad I own this now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Harbick on July 27 2000
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book on the advice of a friend, and have been rewarded for reading it, though it has not been a painless task. It is a pretty challenging read. However, MacKay weaves many interesting historical yarns about various popular investment schemes and how they drove people into delusionary behavior. Some of the stories are amazing, and certainly humorous (for example "patents" being granted for a perpetual motion machine). This book is worth your money, but you're probably not going to read it straight through. It's probably a better "bathroom read"; a few pages at a time over many months.
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By A Customer on Dec 28 2001
Format: Paperback
Mackay's catalogue of the human comedy,aside from the 1840 language,reads like any litany of contemporary idiocy.The book is long and sometimes dry,but the human,all too human desire to see our fellow mortals in their ignorance compels you to read on to the end.The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this book(or any book of history)is that the irrational is an unvanquishable aspect of the human psyche.Most of humankind can be likened to a windsock-led wily-nily by the latest fad,hype,consensus and collective madness whose outbreak is as inevitable as the turning of the globe.I wonder what Mackay would think of our mass media and pop culture,which lend themselves to massive hysteria,distortions and misinformation on an instantaneous and massive scale.The book is both funny and poignant.It makes you want to pity the human race for its inherent silliness.As many wise men have pointed out,humankind doesn't really change.The name of the fools who play the jester change;the fads,fashions and mass hallucinations change;the wallpaper and trinkets of life change,but the farce pretty much continues as before.If I didn't know any better I'd have to say the future holds much the same.
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