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From the best-selling author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, this startling long-lens view shows how America is coming apart at the seams that have historically joined our social classes.
In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity.
Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—a divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.
The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. This divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.
The evidence in Coming Apart is about white America. Its message is about all of America.
Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He first came to national attention in 1984 with Losing Ground. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives with his wife in Burkittsville, Maryland.
Murray uses statistics from 1960 to 2010 as a basis for his arguments as to how our society has become fragmented into the haves and the have nots. This could be a dry oration on statistics, but it is artfully woven into a captivating story.
I would rank this as one of the best books to read if you want to understand the cultural changes that have occurred over the past 50 years.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Coming Apart to be better than the print version?
This is a fantastic little bit of social science, but the author includes a lot of demographic data that can get confusing when in audio format. You'll lose some of the details by listening to it instead of reading it, but it will only matter if you're hoping to use the book as source material for research of your own. The narrator did what he could with it. Otherwise, well-performed and researched.
14 of 16 people found this review helpful
Too many charts/ graphs/ tables etc to be understood via audible. I recommend a book for this one
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
IMPORTANT FOR AUDIO
The format of "Coming Apart" is awkward for an audiobook because of the many references to graphs and tables. There's an accompanying PDF of these with the audiobook. I found that by reading the PDF before listening to the audiobook, I was able to following the reading fairly easily.
There are plenty of professional journalists who have written extensive reviews and commentaries on "Coming Apart." For a particularly good one, see "Is the White Working Class Coming Apart?" by David Frum, or the review in the Wall Street Journal. These may be more useful than reviews given here.
"Coming Apart" has two basic sections: a description of the situation followed by analysis and opinions.
The description of the situation is brilliant. Regardless of your political persuasion, the description will probably strike you as being largely accurate about the changes and problems in America's socio-economic class structure.
Following this brilliant presentation, Murray gives his views and analysis from a libertarian viewpoint. Murray's analysis is what's flawed. While Murray does a good job at identifying why the upper class has become richer and larger, and why the children of the upper class are much more likely to remain in the upper class than they would have been prior to 1960, Murray's attempts to explain why the lower class has grown and is sociologically falling apart doesn't hold together. For politically interested readers with moderate and liberal views, this analysis may be particularly interesting, as it is a serious attempt at sociology from a libertarian/conservative perspective, and may provide some insights about how your political opposites think.
18 of 22 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Murray is possible the greatest sociologist of our times. The book, as usual, will make you think.<br/><br/>Cant wait for his next one.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed this book. Its was interesting and intriguing. But there are two problems with the audiobook version as of this writing.
1) There are absolutely too many graphs, charts, statistics, figures, appendices, etc. for this book to be properly read and understood solely via the audiobook format.
2) There is no Whispersync available with the Kindle version.
I did get through it thanks to borrowing a copy from my local library, but manually syncing between audio and print is a bit tedious. That is especially true with this book, as some chapters are more narrative/explanation (i.e. mainly just text one could easily follow w/ the audio version), while others are very heavily based on graphs, charts, statistics, etc. and cannot properly be understood without the visuals provided in the print/ebook version.
So while I would absolutely recommend this book to an interested reader, I would absolutely not recommend wasting a credit on the audio version until, and unless, there is also a Whispersync version available. There are only a few sections of the book that can be followed with audio only.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
As a trucker and an unofficial member of Fish Town the numbers are worse in 2017. I fear there is no hope without a wholesale return to Christian values. We need to acknowledge that as a society to admonish and shame is not necessarily a bad thing. My concern is the Belmont elites seem to think Europeans have the answer...they don't
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What aspect of Traber Burns’s performance would you have changed?
This may be just me, but it felt like his tone was very judgemental. It's possible that that's how the author wanted it, since the tone overall felt judgemental to the described group but it was very hard to listen to.
Was Coming Apart worth the listening time?
No, I was very excited about the content (especially since I started it after the recent election) but I found it very disappointing. There are a lot of charts referenced, which I obviously couldn't see. The overall tone was very disapproving of this new group and everything they did and I couldn't quite figure out his point, was it just to talk about how this new group was different? It had an odd tone.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Coming Apart?
A truly fascinating book. Murray posits his theory that the social fabric of the U.S. is fraying at the seams as the institutions that defined the nation and separated us as a people from the Europeans are in sharp decline. He goes on to say that these institutions are dying in particular among the lower classes and uses data to support his theory. A must read for all those of every political persuasion must read.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
As a parent, I have a stake in the future of the U.S., and the potential for a failure of the American project, as described as a potential future scenario by Murray, does create anxiety. The juxtaposition that Murray draws with American and European social institutions and cultural norms (work ethic, civic responsibility, religiosity) were particularly interesting.
Any additional comments?
As an American near 50, I can see many of the signs of the fraying of American culture and civic life that Murray describes. Having traveled extensively in Europe, I can see the potential future that the U.S. is approaching, and the worst case scenarios described by Murray are truly frightening (Europe has a glorious past, but no future). The hopeful scenarios for a brighter future are at least equally plausible though, which does leave room for hope. I do highly recommend this book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Coming Apart again? Why?
Have already listened to it twice. This is an important book for those wanting to understand one of the dynamics shaping our society -- bifurcation by cognitive ability -- and its implications. While that was not new to me, its dimensions and its effects added to what I had already dimly perceived. What was new was how and why it was destroying "American Exceptionalism". Murray lays out the drivers of human happiness and how the modern welfare state enervates true human happiness. His prescription for a potential rebirth is quite interesting, and plausible in theory, but I don't think it will happen any time soon, and certainly not soon enough to prevent the withering away of American Exceptionalism. Too many decades of brainwashing (I tried to think of a less pejorative term but could not) have shaped an important segment of our population to the absolute need for and advantages of the welfare state. Only a complete collapse of the welfare state, which is probably decades away now that the printing of money has not only become acceptable but demanded, will force us to rethink what we have been told and learned.
Who was your favorite character and why?
What does Traber Burns bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I probably would not have had the time to read the book. I listen to books when I exercise. Otherwise my day is quite full and there would be little time to read as many books as I listen to.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful