This “disturbing yet fascinating” exploration of mass mania through the ages explains the biological and psychological roots of irrationality (Kirkus Reviews).
From time immemorial, contagious narratives have spread through susceptible groups—with enormous, often disastrous, consequences. Inspired by Charles Mackay’s nineteenth-century classic Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, neurologist and author William Bernstein examines mass delusion through the lens of current scientific research in The Delusions of Crowds.
Bernstein tells the stories of dramatic religious and financial mania in western society over the last five hundred years—from the Anabaptist Madness of the 1530s to the dangerous End-Times beliefs that pervade today’s polarized America; and from the South Sea Bubble to the Enron scandal and dot com bubbles. Through Bernstein’s supple prose, the participants are as colorful as their “desire to improve one’s well-being in this life or the next.”
Bernstein’s chronicles reveal the huge cost and alarming implications of mass mania. He observes that if we can absorb the history and biology of this all-too-human phenomenon, we can recognize it more readily in our own time, and avoid its frequently dire impact.