“Interesting thesis. I listened to the audio book and did not look at the supplemental material. ”Whitney B wrote this review Friday, December 21, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“http://lynnfikstad.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/coming-apart-10-0/”Lynn Fikstad wrote this review Tuesday, October 16, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Call # 305.8 Mur”P West wrote this review Tuesday, September 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Best of all: The prediction that "the intellectual foundation of the modern welfare state will be discredited by a tidal change in our scientific undersatanding of human behavior...that will spill over into every crevice of political and cultural life." We'll see.”Jennifer Cole wrote this review Wednesday, July 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Easily one of the most interesting books I've read in ages. I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, but the questions raised are certainly thought provoking.”Emeraldeyes wrote this review Thursday, June 14, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Murray posits that since JFK’s assassination, America has formed into different classes that is ripping it apart at the seams. He fears that if this continues, America will end “what has made America America”—that is, the culture is unraveling. His data set is only focused on whites, to take race completely out of the hypothesis. The top 5% live a different life, some cloistered in 882 SuperZips (zip codes). New York City, Washington and San Francisco have the largest populations in SuperZips. Seventy-nine percent of students at Tier 1 colleges as of the 1990s came from families in the top quartile, and only 2 percent from the bottom quartile. Affirmative action would not solve this, since the top families produce a disproportionate share of the smartest kids.
Murray explains homogamy—the interbreeding of individuals with like characteristics, and applies it to educational and cognitive homogamy.
Murray categorizes four Founding Virtues that he believes are being lost among the lower middle classes:
3. Marriage—the fault line of decline, where he says “George Gilder was probably mostly right.”
4. Religiosity—the drift away is actually among the lower classes, not the upper classes.
He goes on to back up this claim with mounds of data. Not only does Murrary provide the data, more importantly, he provides the analysis. What do the numbers really say, and provides theories as to cause, not just correlation. This is what makes him so brilliant. It’s not that he measures, but that he knows what to measure, and how to interpret the data.
He then goes on to compare the towns of Belmont and Fishtown, as a way to illustrate the cultural decline. He also delineates the four domains of life that create happiness: Family, vocation, community, and faith. Remarkably, expanding the data to include all Americans makes hardly any difference at all.
Of course, because Murray is a libertarian, he doesn’t see a government solution to this problem. In what I think is his most profound statement in the book, he explains what needs to happen:
"The new upper class still does a good job of practicing some of the virtues, but it no longer preaches them. It has lost self-confidence in the rightness of its own customs and values, and preaches nonjudmentalism instead."
Chalk it up to PC, multicultuarlism, diversity, etc., the effects are the same. We are no longer willing to stand up for what made America great. Of course, the traditional family plays an indispensable role in human flourishing and our social policy must be based on that truth (this is one reason I’m a conservative and not a libertarian). If the upper class simply started to preach what they practice that would be a great start.
As always, Murray is incredibly thought-provoking and you ignore him at the expense of your own ignorance. His work is profound, his thinking even more so. This book made me very uncomfortable, but facts are stubborn things. The solution is to get to our Founding Virtues.
“Interesting book. I'm not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, but he makes some interesting arguments about American culture. ”John M wrote this review Thursday, May 17, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Though this reader cannot quite place Charles Murray's Coming Apart into that category of unfortunately rare books that should be read whether or not one ultimately accepts the premises and conclusions laid out in the book, it does fall into the still unusual category of books that are worth reading even if one ultimately finds disagreement with the book's central ideas and arguments.
Part of Murray's central thesis - that American culture is dividing into increasingly segregated spheres, one sphere constituting an elite "creative" class that shapes public policy and contributes and acts as gatekeepers for much of what is defined as American culture, and another sphere constituting a poorly educated, poorly employed, socially and civically unengaged underclass - will not come as news to many. For years now, it has been apparent to many that the new information society is providing numerous benefits to those with the necessary education and intelligence while leaving behind those who do not have the skills or social connections necessary to succeed in the changing economy.
Murray's thesis goes beyond this, however, to argue that these changes have also resulted in an elite class which has not only reaped the benefits of the information society but which has used these benefits to increasingly isolate itself from the rest of America. The end result is that those who shape our laws and public policies, and those who provide us with our arts and entertainment (often presented as reflections of who we all supposedly are), are increasingly oblivious to how much of America lives or to the repurcussions that political, cultural, and life-style decisions made by the elite class have on the rest of America, and particularly on those who are now becoming increasingly segregated in their own underclass.
The subtitle of Murray's book is The State of White America, 1960-2010, and while this at first seems like a somewhat odd and narrow window through which to view American culture, it does help emphasize one of Murray's points which is that, going forward, some of the most troubling lines of schism in American culture are not going to be along the lines of race or ethnicity, but along the lines of class. Even if one suspects that Murray is perhaps a little too facile in disengaging any discussion of race and ethnicity from the discussion of class, one may still find his argument for this growing class schism to be rather compelling.
Murray offers plenty of statistical evidence to back up his assertion that the social virtues of marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity are more widely practiced among the elite class than among the underclass. The end result of this, Murray argues, is an underclass in which children are increasingly raised in single-parent homes, the work ethic is disdained, trust of one's neighbors is diminished or entirely absent, and little or no sense of social and civic engagement remains, all leading to unhappy people in dysfunctional communities.
Unfortunately, Murray does not answer two of the most compelling questions that these arguments raise - how did this divide of American culture and the deterioration of the underclass come about? and, what can be done to alleviate both the growing schism between the "best" and the "rest" and the resulting social collapse of the underclass?
One suspects that Murray's answer to the first question - something which he addresses explicitly in some of his other writings and which he hints at here and there in Coming Apart - is that the modern welfare state is largely to blame. But, while Murray has made some compelling arguments about the unintended detrimental affects of the modern welfare state elsewhere, given the focus of this book, one would like to see evidence that his implied culprit is indeed the perpetrator rather than, just to grab one obvious possible suspect out of the air, the rise of the information society itself and the social changes it has brought about which are necessarily going to be harder on those at the lower end of the economic spectrum who were already vulnerable and perhaps less able to absorb sweeping societal changes.
Still, even if the reader does not accept some or all of the assumptions that underlie this book, she may still find much here to ponder and worry over. Whatever its flaws, this is not a book that one dismisses lightly.”
“If you think the rich are getting richer and the rest are getting poorer, Murray says you're right. He investigates what he called the new upper class. They are the top 5 percent in America. They are the influential people in the country. The problem is that they are too isolated from the rest of Americans. They make decisions based on their own experience, not the average American's. Murray says America is coming apart at the class seams.
Murray has lots of charts and statistics to prove his case. I did not find it a difficult books to read at all. Having grown up in the period he describes, I found it very informing.”