A sweeping new look at the unheralded transformation that is eroding the foundations of American exceptionalism. Americans today find themselves mired in an era of uncertainty and frustration. The nation's safety net is pulling apart under its own weight; political compromise is viewed as a form of defeat; and our faith in the enduring concept of American exceptionalism appears increasingly outdated. But the American Age may not be ending. In The Vanishing Neighbor, Marc J. Dunkelman identifies an epochal shift in the structure of American life - a shift unnoticed by many. Routines that once put doctors and lawyers in touch with grocers and plumbers - interactions that encouraged debate and cultivated compromise - have changed dramatically since the postwar era. Both technology and the new routines of everyday life connect tight-knit circles and expand the breadth of our social landscapes, but they've sapped the commonplace, incidental interactions that for centuries have built local communities and fostered healthy debate. The disappearance of these once-central relationships - between people who are familiar but not close, or friendly but not intimate - lies at the root of America's economic woes and political gridlock. The institutions that were erected to support what Tocqueville called the "township" - that unique locus of the power of citizens - are failing because they haven't yet been molded to the realities of the new American community. It's time we moved beyond the debate over whether the changes being made to American life are good or bad and focus instead on understanding the tradeoffs. Our cities are less racially segregated than in decades past, but we’ve become less cognizant of what's happening in the lives of people from different economic backgrounds, education levels, or age groups.
©2014 Marc J. Dunkelman (P)2014 Gildan Media LLC
“Marc Dunkelman gets it. In The Vanishing Neighbor, he shows how the traditional web of relationships that makes up American life is undergoing fundamental change, why it matters, and what we need to do about it.” (President Bill Clinton)
Elderly, bookish person, omnivorous reader, only bothers to review books she considered worth reading.
This is one of the more important and memorable books in my library. I'll be rereading it from time to time and recommending it to friends.
NA. This is a non-fiction book.
His reading is clear, listenable, and enhances the text.
Yes, I had an extreme reaction, one of relief. I'm not going crazy. Our community life has changed in profound ways and trying to repair it back to what it was in our most fortunate youth is a waste of effort. The rules of relating to others and society in general have changed. Assumptions that worked in the 1940s when I was being taught how to be a "good neighbor" and function in a community no longer apply. It's a relief to hear this expounded at length and in logical detail from an expert and not just harbor it as a niggling, uncomfortable suspicion. I'm easy now with the understanding that it's no use to agonize over the fate of our valued clubs and organizations, customs and assumptions as we age and young people don't take an interest in what was important to us. They have other ways of appreciating and dealing with the concerns we valued: social service, history and genealogy, even neighborliness. Elders who read this book will find peace of mind as they recognize that "the times, they are a-changin'" and that just may not be a bad thing.
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