Professor: Karl Kline
Understanding Gladwell´s Argument
How can we relate epidemics with social problems? This might sound like an impossible connection, because we usually think that epidemics are limited to illnesses or viruses. Malcolm Gladwell achieves this connection in his essay “The Tipping Point,” where he presents a new concept thatit is used to define the critical moment in which a fact, behavior, or idea passes from being marginal to becoming something massive. To make us understand such a complex perception, the author presents well organized writing. Real examples, related theories, experiments and personal experiences are showed to support his argument. He presents human behavior as something contagiousby using a concept that was made for medical issues. This is what “The Tipping Point” is about.
What the author pretends is to compare social problems with epidemics. He wants to relate these terms to explain how the tipping point theory can be applied to both of them. The article is specially focused on New York’s crime rate. We can notice Gladwell is comparing by the order inwhich the ideas are presented. At the beginning of the essay, he explains how the criminal situation in New York City has change in only two years. According to the author, “In 1993, there were a hundred and twenty-six homicides in the Seven-Five, as the police call it. Last year (1995), there were forty-four.” Then he started talking about the tipping point definition and explains how itis applied in the medical field, and uses this as an example to demonstrate how epidemic and diseases are spread so quickly. While he explains the meaning of the tipping point, he mentions the relations that the develop of crime has with epidemics. At the end of the essay, Gladwell comes back to the theme of New York’s crime rate. The order of how the ideas are presented is a clearillustration of a comparison.
The main claim is the social problem, specifically crime, behaving like an infectious agent, and how managing the tipping point can help to solve that. To prove it, the author uses different kind of examples to make us believe and agree with what he is saying. One of them is in order to explain how epidemics are not linear, and the results we obtain do not corresponddirectly to our effort. Gladwell mentions the case of pregnant women who stop drinking alcohol because they believe that it will damage the fetus. The reason he uses this example is because he knows we are familiar with the idea that expecting mothers should not drink alcohol. The author also mentions a personal experience of his childhood to support the idea of nonlinearity of epidemics bysaying “Tomato ketchup in a bottle—None will come then the lot’ll.” This fact appeals to our pathos, by trying to persuade us by connecting with our emotions. We can feel identify with the experience of a child trying to pour ketchup on his dinner. It is something we all have done in our lives. Another example refers to HIV. People are very concerned about this disease because it can affect anyoneinvolved in sexual behaviors. It is a problem we can feel identified with. For this reason it calls our attention making us understand Gladwell’s argument in a better way.
To develop the concept of social epidemic it is stated, “teen-age sex and dropping out of school are contagious in the same way that an infection disease is contagious.” Kinds look for a role model to emulate. If they donot have any, they will not care about their goals. Therefore, in neighborhoods with more high-status workers, the number of pregnant girls and students dropping school is lower. Referring to problems which affect our society will cause a major impact in the audience. Comparing topics like teen-age pregnancy and gangs spreading guns and violence will make people appreciate the point of view...