Malcolm Gladwell on 2011's tipping points

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Our world changed in 2011. From the fall of dictators to the passing of icons to a debt crisis that has brought a continent to the brink of financial collapse. But how significant were these events?

In a special year-in-review edition of One on One, CBC's Peter Mansbridge spoke to influential writer Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, to find out his opinion on the biggest stories of 2011.

Mansbridge asked Gladwell if the world moved in the right direction this past year.

"It was certainly pushed...I think it'll take a while to figure out whether that was in the right way," Gladwell said. "If the theme of Tipping Point was that everything around is far more volatile than we imagine, that was certainly on display in 2011, wasn't it? I mean, from the most unlikely quarters.

Arab Spring is possibly the most important thing that's happened in the Middle East in the longest time. I mean it's an epical transformation of that region...and then Europe going into this kind of unimaginable meltdown at the end of the year."

Another major story in 2011 was the growth of the Occupy movements across the world. Although they dominated news headlines, Gladwell questions how much of an impact they really had, especially in comparison to the protest movements in the Middle East.

"I don't know what Occupy is. It's certainly a much smaller thing for the moment, and for the moment, it's really hard to know where it's going to end up or even what it stands for. You have to know what you want and you have to kind of be more strategic about it. Right now I'm not sure what they want. Nor do they know. I think the process of figuring out what you want takes a while. Particularly when you're dealing with an issue which is as disparate and complex as this. It's one thing [if] I am part of a dissident movement in Libya and I know what I want is really clear: 'I want to overthrow Gadhafi.' It's harder when your cause is some combination of anger at economic inequality and anger at how the economic crisis was adjudicated. And that's why it's going to take a little while I think to figure out what exactly this movement wants to choose as its goal."

Gladwell also weighed in other major developments in 2011, from the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs, to the Royal Wedding, to the riots in Vancouver and London, England.


The Tipping Point

by Malcolm Gladwell

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From the publisher:

"The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas."

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