• The Delusions of Crowds

  • Why People Go Mad in Groups
  • By: William J. Bernstein
  • Narrated by: Tom Parks
  • Length: 17 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (120 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Inspired by Charles Mackay's 19th-century classic Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Bernstein engages with mass delusion with the same curiosity and passion, but armed with the latest scientific research that explains the biological, evolutionary, and psychosocial roots of human irrationality. Bernstein tells the stories of dramatic religious and financial mania in Western society over the last 500 years - from the Anabaptist Madness that afflicted the Low Countries in the 1530s to the dangerous End-Times beliefs that animate ISIS and pervade today's polarized America; and from the South Sea Bubble to the Enron scandal and dot-com bubbles of recent years. Through Bernstein's supple prose, the participants are as colorful as their motivation, invariably "the desire to improve one's well-being in this life or the next".

As revealing about human nature as they are historically significant, Bernstein's chronicles reveal the huge cost and alarming implications of mass mania: for example, belief in dispensationalist end-times has over decades profoundly affected US Middle East policy. Bernstein observes that if we can absorb the history and biology of mass delusion, we can recognize it more readily in our own time and avoid its frequently dire impact.

©2021 William J. Bernstein (P)2021 Tantor

What listeners say about The Delusions of Crowds

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Well-Developed and Useful POV

Nice job of weaving together psychological research, historical experiences and case studies to support its primary thesis:

That the madness of crowds is driven by deep-seated human attributes (like insider/outsider thinking), intolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, and a form of hubris which confuses intelligence and rationality.

Consequently, that mass delusions reappear when certain identified conditions appear in the social, political and economic environment(s).

And, that if you add a dose of Manichaeism to the mix, then the delusions are religious.

The author also argues persuasively that for >40 years US policy-making has been heavily influenced by a particular delusional model - millenial dispensationalism, which is the philisophical source of the evangelical right. In other words, that much of recent US policy is delusional, in a real way.

Not likely to be popular among "true believers" of any stripe [too close to home], but very useful for anyone else trying to understand the root causes of current cultural/political/religious divisions in the USA and elsewhere.

9 people found this helpful

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Excellent

Humans are just narrative driven Apes 🦍 that tell stories. Great book. Worth the read. Audible hopes you enjoyed this program

6 people found this helpful

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Destined to become a classic.

Thoroughly well researched, entertaining and enlightening. I've read some of the author's other books this is the best so far in readability, interest and engagingly presented. The reader is also very good.

4 people found this helpful

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A must read (listen) assessment of human behavior

The author provides practical historical evidence, both financial and religious, alongside modern scientific studies to present a sound framework for understanding extreme behavior events.

2 people found this helpful

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The Illusion of Delusions

I began this book with high expectations. When Bernstein initiated discussion of neurocognitive factors (amygdala & nucleus acumbens) my interest peaked. I’m intrigued by the biological substrates that weigh in on human behavior. I, naively, expected a plausible hypothesis for the many contradictions between the individual mind & the collective one.

What followed, however, was an exhaustive belch of prattle - literally thousands of words recounting Medieval history in (literally!) explicit, bloody detail. The author’s lengthy bird walks into history (while interesting on their own merit to this former history teacher) did zero to elucidate a central theme, much less suggest a vague thesis.

I suffered every syllable of this book in search of a story. The great irony of it all is this: a book predicated on the power of narrative failed to produce even a flaccid one.

1 person found this helpful

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Two Thirds is End Times Concepts - Not Financial

Two Thirds is End Times Concepts - Not Financial: And for me that is a good thing.

However, this is not a book about theology, but is a book that explains that factions within each of the three Abrahamic religions are for some reason inspired by the concept of a final reckoning.

I grew up in a Pentecostal church, literally. The parsonage was adjoined to the church. My parents were both ordained Pentecostal ministers. The words premillennialism and eschatology were unknown to me, but basic to what I was taught. I did know about the rapture and some kind of an apocalyptic ending of the world we know. These concepts terrorized my young mind. For fifty years since my decision to abandon the religion of my parents I have been drawn to read what supports my early decision.

I don't see good coming out of leaders using the fears of an apocalyptic ending to our world. I don't think that morality needs these sectarian controls. This book helps the reader discount the powerful delusions leaders of religions we are most familiar with use to great effect.

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I can't hear anything on this book!

what the hake?I can't hear anything! please fix it!!!
I bought many books and this is the only one that has this problem

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Confirmation bias and its role in mass manias and delusions

There are some boring parts to the audio book, perhaps because of the narrator…
Nonetheless, another great gem by William Bernstein. Worth the time to read and think about.

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Worth listening to ..

Interesting take on the delusions created amidst group think. With our current plandemic, it sure looks like history is repeating itself, regardless how much science is out there.

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biased

the author is clearly biased and cant lay off what he deemed delusional. could not get past the first few chapters because of the bias.

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  • John
  • 03-19-21

History and psychology

What links the end of the world, tulips, excitable barbershops, kayaks, a Prime Minister and a temple in Jerusalem?

This tome is definitely instructive, and not afraid to pull punches. It does so by exploring historical events and characters, whilst leaving the reader to condemn or forgive lead actors. It's not afraid of tackling religious delusions of all the Abrahamic faiths, that strikes me as courageous.

This leads me onto the pity of this book, the sort of people who ought to read it probably won't. Those people would be outraged by its contents. It's possible to draw a parallel with Richard Dawkins's work, although that certainly did change hearts and minds.

So it's not light reading, but worth the journey.