List Price: $ 11.99
Save 18 % off List Price
The Social Atom : Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You
The idiosyncrasies of human decision-making have confounded economists and social theorists for years. If each person makes choices for personal (and often irrational) reasons, how can people's choices be predicted by a single theory? How can any economic, social, or political theory be valid? The truth is, none of them really are.
Mark Buchanan makes the fascinating argument that the science of physics is beginning to provide a new picture of the human or "social atom," and help us understand the surprising, and often predictable, patterns that emerge when they get together. Look at patterns, not people, Buchanan argues, and rules emerge that can explain how movements form, how interest groups operate, and even why ethnic hatred persists. Using similar observations, social physicists can predict whether neighborhoods will integrate, whether stock markets will crash, and whether crime waves will continue or abate.
Brimming with mind games and provocative experiments, The Social Atom is an incisive, accessible, and comprehensive argument for a whole new way to look at human social behavior.
Buchanan (Ubiquity: The Science of History) reaches out to the audience for pop social science like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics with the concept of "social physics," a scientific model for the patterns that emerge from the interactions among large groups of people. Though his observations that people excel at imitating the successful behavior of others and will often form collective bonds over such fundamental pretenses as shared ethnic heritage aren't startling, Buchanan leans on his background in theoretical physics and treats these ideas as "a quantum revolution in the social sciences." His presentation is muted by a tendency to talk around the subject, recapping prior discussions and promising future developments instead of establishing a clear, compelling thread. Though the real-life scenarios he uses to illustrate his theories--such as the unexpected revival of Times Square or the outbreak of ethnic violence in the former Yugoslavia--are engaging, some sections draw upon computer simulations of arbitrary behavior that illustrate his thesis but don't command equal interest. This is a great idea for a magazine article, but awkward at book length. (June)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
May 27, 2007
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.