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Publisher's Summary

Respected conservative journalist and commentator Timothy P. Carney continues the conversation begun with Hillbilly Elegy and the classic Bowling Alone in this hard-hitting analysis that identifies the true factor behind the decline of the American dream: It is not purely the result of economics as the left claims, but the collapse of the institutions that made us successful, including marriage, church, and civic life. 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump proclaimed, “the American dream is dead”, and this message resonated across the country. 

Why do so many people believe the American dream is no longer within reach? Growing inequality, stubborn pockets of immobility, rising rates of deadly addiction, the increasing and troubling fact that where you start determines where you end up, heightening political strife - these are the disturbing realities threatening ordinary American lives today. 

The standard accounts pointed to economic problems among the working class, but the root was a cultural collapse: While the educated and wealthy elites still enjoy strong communities, most blue-collar Americans lack strong communities and institutions that bind them to their neighbors. And outside of the elites, the central American institution has been religion. 

That is, it’s not the factory closings that have torn us apart; it’s the church closings. The dissolution of our most cherished institutions - nuclear families, places of worship, civic organizations - has not only divided us, but eroded our sense of worth, belief in opportunity, and connection to one another. 

In Alienated America, Carney visits all corners of America, from the dim country bars of Southwestern Pennsylvania, to the bustling Mormon wards of Salt Lake City, and explains the most important data and research to demonstrate how the social connection is the great divide in America. He shows that Trump’s surprising victory was the most visible symptom of this deep-seated problem. 

In addition to his detailed exploration of how a range of societal changes have, in tandem, damaged us, Carney provides a framework that will lead us back out of a lonely, modern wilderness.

©2019 Timothy P. Carney (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Alienated America

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Worth it...

A long listen with lots of data, but worth it. Like taking a advanced social studies course on current America. Full of insight. My take away... why some have hope and others don’t... God.

7 people found this helpful

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Practically ignores important aspects

This book made some excellent points, and backed them up meticulously. I was disappointed that after beating some of the same dead horses about the impacts of community alienation from the perspective of white America for hours, we have a tiny footnote on black Americans in the last 15 minutes. The author stresses the fact that family and church (meaning, any faith community) are the bedrock of society. He never addresses the systematic and mostly ongoing exclusion of LGTBQ people from both these core institutions. What is the impact of this? What fallout are we dealing with now due to the paranoid and still ongoing exclusion of anyone deemed “different” from respectable white middle America? We need a sequel.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Thought-provoking but narrowly relevant

I actually enjoyed this book much more than anticipated. The narrator read with enthusiasm and good inflection. The writer obviously made an effort at non-partisan fact dissemination.

I several times caught myself talking back to the narrator, challenging statements or the author's opinion on issues. These disagreements center on the religious-conservative perception of morality and offers an overly simplistic solution. "Go to church, participate, and things will get better." Would that it were so easy. And what about the cross section of Americans that churches actively disinvite?

This author's formula for saving America, specifically Americans in flyover country, isn't a quick fix and could likely create larger problems for certain communities. But it's better than building a wall.

2 people found this helpful

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A good companion to Murray's Coming Apart

Mr. Carney is making the podcast rounds to hawk his book. What I heard in those interviews was a story about America's social ties coming apart, like in Charles Murray's Coming Apart. What I got was a bit of that as well as a dose of "why did Trump win in 2016," which I had 0, negative zero interest in.
Despite the intrusion of Trump as a topic, the book was very interesting to listen to and gave me and my spouse (for the parts I shared) something to think and talk about. I'm sure there are a zillion reviews about what is in the book, so I'll keep mine simple. It is a good social studies book about social capital and its importance. In my own studies, I do local history and note the change in my own ethnic community and its downward spiral in some areas due to the loss of organizational and church involvement. It also made me think about work in a different way and why a universal basic income is foolhardy.

8 people found this helpful

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Solution to all America's problems.

One of the best books attacking the root causes of economic inequality. The author sussesfuly detached his political biases and paints the picture with wide range of statistically based evidence.

2 people found this helpful

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Methodically written

I loved the straightforward story telling. The author is very clear what his message is from the beginning.

1 person found this helpful

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An Important Book - Must Read

There are a multitude of books published each year, quite a few are good books, and of those, a handful are actually important. Alienated America is one of the handful.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

good book but he referenced mostly DC area for his analogies .
Not much to keep someone from the south who loves politics engaged.

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Roadmap to MAGA

Carney describes the institutions that made America great and how in the 60’s the elite left started to tear them down. As Charles Murray pointed out our elite adopted these values and institutions while destroying them for the lower classes. We thus have 2 societies. Carney does a great job in describing this process. He then describes how America can be rebuilt from the bottom up. It is an easy and fun read. Well documented. It is worth everyone’s time to read.

5 people found this helpful

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EXCELLENT on the problems facing modern America

This is a very serious academic-level work, which is unafraid to take punches at both left- and right- wing sacred cows that have led to economic and cultural decline for a large swathe of the country.

A must-read for those hoping to understand why many people in the country think and vote how they do.