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Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 - 2010

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,702 ratings  ·  356 reviews
From the bestselling author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, this startling long-lens view shows how America is coming apart at the seams that historically have joined our 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 t...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Random House (first published 2012)
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Stuart
This isn't a serious book. On the plus side it does document the fact that the lives of the middle class have, on average, changed for the worse. We have become increasingly a society of permanent haves and permanent have nots. I'll give it an extra star for the charts that document this change. But the rest of this book is just plain idiotic eugenics.

The take home message from this book? The rich are rich and stay that way for generations today because they are smarter and the elite colleges th...more
Hadrian
This was an incredibly frustrating book.

It starts off with a statistical analysis on income disparity and social segregation. The basic topics are well-established in American discourse. However, he ascribes an unusual cause - the rise of liberal technical classes, and the lack of the 'moral character' of the poor. The elites are sorted out due to technical skill and intelligence, so he says, and place themselves in nice little ritzy neighborhoods and thus refuse to enact meaningful social help...more
Lewis Weinstein
"I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important as Charles Murray’s 'Coming Apart.'” --David Brooks, The New York Times

"Mr. Murray's sobering portrait is of a nation where millions of people are losing touch with the founding virtues that have long lent American lives purpose, direction and happiness." --W. Bradford Wilcox, The Wall Street Journal

It’s always daunting to disagree with such eminent authorities, but I see “Coming Apart” as little more than right wing political scree...more
Jessica Scott
If you want to have a discussion about class in America, you MUST read this book. This book was eye opening in many significant ways and the most troubling part is that if Murray is even half right, the American experiment is coming to an end. He echoes the call of other authors/intellectuals such as Michael Sandel in Justice for a civic awakening so that the stratification of American doesn't continue. But short of a vast swath of the well to do reinvesting in the culture that so enabled them a...more
Socraticgadfly
"Coming Apart" is quite possibly more mendacious than "The Bell Curve." It's certainly more hypocritical, and given that Murray's whole thesis is ultimately a screed against the Great Society more spiteful.

In this long review, I'm going to list in exquisite detail all the problems it has, which lead me to note that Paul Krugman, in an oped column about the book, was far, far too nice.

The single biggest statistical/demographic/historical problem with “Coming Apart” is that the lesser income inequ...more
Lawrence Lihosit
While reading Charles Murray’s new book, I thought about our recent national obsession with civil discourse and events in Oakland, California. Since it never snows in Oakland, Occupy Wall Street has been very visible there. It would have been most illustrative to seat Mr. Murray at a cloth covered table, set on a high platform overlooking the street below. A finely dressed and polite moderator could have introduced him while the author poured himself a glass of water from an imported bottle.

“Cha...more
Orrin Woodward
Charles Murray's book pinpoints the unraveling of America's community over the last 50 years and shares a plan for its restoration. It's one of the few books that I purchased and read within the week. Truthfully, it was hard to put down!

Although many believe that the complex challenges facing us today cannot be solved through the lens of the American founder's virtues, Murray writes:

I take another view: The founders were right. The success of America depended on virtue in the people when the cou...more
John Harder
First an explanation of the title – Coming Apart, The State of White America, 1960-2010. Mr. Murray does not want the distraction of bringing race into the equation when evaluating the state of American society. Murray contends that Americans are becoming split between two distinct societies based upon class, or more precisely, the cognitive elite and, well, the less cognitive. Race is not the problem and there is no significant difference between the races in the bifurcation of society – class...more
Ron Davison
Murray has written a book that deserves serious attention. He calls himself a libertarian but what Murray has done is articulate Santorum's campaign better than Santorum did. (At this point it's probably worth mentioning that I'm a liberal and thought that a Santorum presidency would be a major step back into medieval times.)
Murray deals with class in this book - a topic that seemingly became forbidden once communism lost to capitalism. But what he talks to (roughly 2/3 of children born to the w...more
Suphatra
In Coming Apart, scholar, author and political scientist Charles Murray, attempts to address the growing class stratification among white Americans. Its a big topic — I was really intrigued.

The first half of Murray’s book borrows heavily from David Brooks’ “Bobos in Paradise” (a book about upper class elite in America that I reviewed here). There is also a quiz to see how connected you are to most of white working class America; it was quite amusing. I thought he was accurate in some of his perc...more
Faith
Here's a nice little summary of the book:

Poor people are unsuccessful because they're lazy, immoral, and stupid. Upper and upper middle class people are successful because they are smart, morally upright and industrious. However, they are elitist snobs who are too far removed from poor people. Hence, poor people are suffering. They don't have a good example of how to be industrious and moral. As for being smart, well poor people can just forget it. With the exception of a few lucky members, they...more
John-Paul
This book has earned many 1-star reviews and many 5-star reviews. I don't like to present myself as some kind of political Goldilocks, but I must say that I disagree with most of Murray's political leanings and assumptions but I also learned a lot from this book. So three stars it is.

The parts of this book about elites are all stuff I (and probably you) have heard before. Educated people who have jobs that require some measure of skill and intelligence tend to live close to one another, associat...more
Richard
Dec 19, 2013 Richard rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/opinion/brooks-the-great-divorce.html
David Brooks, the New York Times pet almost-a-conservative, claims about this book, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.” Yeah, it looks seminal. See his review at The Great Divorce (I’m a little curious about whether there’s some hidden linkage to the C.S. Lewis book).

At least, at a mere 416 pages, it won’t take nearly as long to read as 2011’s most important book.

Update:

Brooks is an editorialist; so it isn’t surpri...more
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
I have friends who remind me, regularly, that wealth is becoming more and more concentrated among the wealthy. Further, the "not rich" are making less than they used to, relative to the wealthy. In other words, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

There is a divide growing in America, argues Charles Murray in his book "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 - 2010" but it isn't necessarily just over money. In fact, the divide may be greater because it is cultural,...more
Sean B.
So apparently the author of this book took a lot of flak once upon a time because he said things that people didn't like, that conflicted with a lot of stubbornly set and rigidly defined descriptions of "HOW LIFE WORKS".
I don't know, maybe look at things that you disagree with with an open mind, people. After all, facts are facts; they cannot change because you don't like them (but you can change your interpretation of what they mean).
This book has an interesting story to tell, and a lot of stat...more
Sally
This book is about the division in our country between the upper and lower class and their core behaviors and values. It deserves five stars, but I found the beginning chapters' statistics and charts hard to comprehend. I'm not a very smart bear, so I need succinct statements rather than "Specifically, the average centile for people living in the zip codes bordering the SuperZips was at least 90 for 48 percent of them and 80 to 89 for another 30 percent." He goes on like that for quite a while;...more
Christie
I figured few people I knew would even bother to read this book, so I did so myself. It seems like many of the complaints fail to take the book as what it claims to be. Murray purports to show the factual trends in various measures over time - and I think he does that fairly well. There might be a few other variables here and there one would like to also see controlled, but the statistics seem to be honestly presented. What appears to be most irksome to many is Murray's interpretation of the dat...more
Sean Chick
You mean the decline of America has to do with government? That thing that socially speaking has been shrinking since 1980? I also love the part where the wealthy are virtuous and the poor whites are now slobs. Of course like most conservatives he believes in a rigid kind of inequality. It is ultimately what connects Filmer and Burke to Hitler and Gingrich. There are those born to rule and those born to serve. The conservative debate is always over who the rulers really are. Here our masters wil...more
Ray
Once upon a time was Middletown (Lynds). Now there is Murray's Coming Apart. It has extensive statistical and graphical elaboration of his premise. Murray's premise that increasing class separation of United States into an upper class and a lower class with unique responses to the unifying forces of our "exceptionalism" threaten that exceptionalism. If that uniqueness weakens and disappears the consequences will be destructive of the elements of the good life that have been and, though weakening...more
thewanderingjew
In the early part of the decade of the sixties, hope abounded, the class distinctions were small, poverty had decreased steadily, the moral code was totally different, promiscuity was frowned upon, the sanctity of marriage was primary, honesty was a virtue to be extolled, hard work was honored. Gratuitous sex in books, TV and movies was forbidden or frowned upon. TV was wholesome as in Father Knows Best. The best movies were clean; they were about our way of life and our lives were wholesome. We...more
Clif Hostetler
The political rhetoric from the past American presidential campaign could easily give one the impression that the USA is one big happy country made up almost entirely of "middle class" people. (This sounds as credible as Lake Wobegon's "all the children are above average.") The book sees things differently.

Looking at white America Mr. Murray sees a country increasingly polarized into two culturally and geographically isolated demographics. For the new upper class (20% +-) divorce is low, the wor...more
Bojan Tunguz
Charles Murray is one of the most distinguished and insightful social scientists of our time. His work over the past few decades has systematically and methodically probed into some of the most consequential and momentous societal and policy issues. Unfortunately, due to the highly politicized and contentious nature of many of such topics, he and his work have been subject to some very severe and withering criticism over the years. It's a testament to Murray's courage, integrity, and intellectua...more
Dane
This is an incredibly well written book that advances a number of claims in sociology, among them:

1) Racial comparisons are losing their validity as benchmarks of social progress (i.e. comparing black poverty rates to white poverty rates)
2) American cultural norms have changed significantly since 1960, particularly in regards to four areas: attitudes towards marriage, work, honesty, and community engagement.
3) Upper class Americans are becoming physically and culturally isolated from mainstre...more
Heidi
Upon hearing about this book on NPR, I thought it would be much more a study about the growing class divisions... and it is, but that's not it's central theme. Libertarian Charles Murray begins with the premise that the United States was designed as a limited government democracy in which most of the day-to-day work of society is organized, managed, and overseen at a local level. This local civic involvement has always been fueled by a few core values: integrity, industriousness, marriage, and r...more
Andrea
This book describes in detail the state of American families at the turn of the current century. There is a big divide between rich and poor and their families are worlds apart. As a basis for the discussion and the statistics, he describes the four characteristics of the founding colonists that made America great which are thrift, religiosity, marriage and industry and how those characteristics are losing ground in American culture. He warns that the disintegration of America will affect both r...more
Todd Nemet
Baratunde Thurston, the author of How To Be Black, astutely pointed out that you have to hand it to Charles Murray for coming out with a book about white people during Black History Month. (Oh wait. I just checked on Amazon and the publication date is actually January 31. But still, I would be willing to bet that the possibility never crossed Mr. Murray's mind.)

This book was about what I expected: A premise that I was willing to accept, a bunch of stats that I found fascinating, and conclusions...more
Dewey
There is so much wrong about parts II and III that I don't even know where to begin. Murray would do well to complete a more thorough literature review beyond the founding fathers and examine the causal relationships he investigates. Further, he continually mistakes correlation for causation; even when the theoretical relationships are valid, his analysis often ignores problems of heterogeniety and multi-colinearity. I cannot take this book seriously.
Michael
Absolutely fascinating book that had me running back to my college statistics classes. Murray is a statistician who has poured through decades of data to take a look at how America is dividing into social classes in a way that is much more acute than it has been in our past. By only using data on white Americans, Murray--whose work The Bell Curve garnered just a little weensy bit of controversy twenty years ago--is trying to shield himself from being called a racist. The statistical evidence in...more
John
This was a very frustrating read. Dr. Murray is certainly engaging an important topic -- the economic/educational/class segregation of the United States over the past 50 years. And much of the descriptive evidence he cites is persuasive. We all know the "superzips" he describes -- well-heeled areas of Boston, New York, D.C., Seattle -- where everyone has advanced degrees and lives in an elite bubble looking out with wonder (and often disgust) at the rest of the country.

But Murray's pervasive smu...more
Simcha Wood
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 sph...more
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“People need self-respect, but self-respect must be earned -- it cannot be self-respect if it's not earned -- and the only way to earn anything is to achieve it in the face of the possibility of failing.” 11 likes
“A man who is holding down a menial job and thereby supporting a wife and children is doing something authentically important with his life. He should take deep satisfaction from that, and be praised by his community for doing so. If that same man lives under a system that says the children of the woman he sleeps with will be taken care of whether or not he contributes, then that status goes away. I am not describing a theoretical outcome, but American neighborhoods where, once working at a menial job to provide for his family made a man proud and gave him status in his community, and where now it doesn't. Taking the trouble out of life strips people in major ways which human beings look back on their lives and say, ‘I made a difference.” 0 likes
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