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The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  156 ratings  ·  29 reviews

A sweeping new look at the unheralded transformation
that is eroding the foundations of American exceptionalism.

Without any notice, America’s basic community building
blocks have dissolved. What Alexis de Tocqueville
called the “township”—that unique locus of the power of
citizens—has been replaced. But with what? In a work that
combines rich history and keen sociological obser
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published July 28th 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfic
The Vanishing Neighbor was difficult to rate. Here on Goodreads, I only gave it 2 stars because I was reading it for leisure. If I were a sociology student, I'd probably give it 4-5 stars. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to others to read "for fun" but I can't deny the depth and wealth of information within, or the novelty of the thesis presented.

Let me back up just a little and explain why, exactly, I picked up this book in the first place. Two years ago, the hubby and I bought a house in
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Let me first start off by saying that if I could give this 3.5 stars, I would. The first thing that you, as the reader, need to be prepared for is the nagging left-leaning narrative throughout. A little research in the front-end, though, would have told me that the author was a former Fellow at the Clinton Foundation, so it should come as no surprise. Having said that, as one who works with the Community and volunteers also, this was a very enlightening read.

If you are looking for a unique pers
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Small-town USA, aka ‘neighborhoods' or 'communities' used to define the pattern of life that most Americans experienced in their everyday lives. You had your own immediate family, and you also had the neighbors up and down the block who you simply trusted, implicitly. In the age where many gated commuter subdivisions have become mutually-exclusive, in other words, Gerrymeandered, those occasions are limited where individuals from diverse occupations and backgrounds, and with different political ...more
Benjamin Sigrist
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Learned about this book from the Art of Manliness podcast interview with the author. I found it to be a good, if slightly depressing read. The main thesis is that the middle-ring (loose connections between intimate family and distant acquaintances) connections are being lost as we gain more and more efficiency in modern society. As the author states, the good old days weren't all they are cracked up to be today, but there are still quite a few positives there... I worry about this next networked ...more
Ian Bost
Everything in the middle seems to be disappearing: the middle class, the "missing middle" in housing (i.e. duplexes and small apartment buildings), and, in "The Vanishing Neighbor", our "middle ring" social connections. As Mr. Dunkelman frames it, our inner ring is our close family and friends, which has gotten stronger in recent years. Our outer ring, which has also gotten stronger lately, is the people on the fringes of our social awareness, an often curated and echo-chamber-y group known prim ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
A few interesting musings on the changes American society has undergone as we've transitioned from an agrarian, to an industrial, to a digital society. While Dunkelman has a some useful insights into the subject of community, and how we might go about rebuilding it in today's world, the reader would be better served by looking for the interview he gave to Ben Domenech of The Federalist podcast. It will save considerable time, and be more palatable than the print version. Dunkelman's writing styl ...more
John Gurney
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting book, but largely a review of the sociological literature about the decline of American communities. Good points are found within, such as it's unfair to blame current partisanship on biased media like MSNBC and FOX News given the highly partisan, avowedly party aligned newspapers most Americand read for much of the nation's history.

The problem lies within America's voluntary stepping back from society and congregating with like-minded people as discussed in recent major works such
Samuel Lubell
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, nonfiction
History of how neighborhoods and the concepts of neighbors have vanished from American society. Our society/politics needs to adapt to the reality that people have connections across the country while not even knowing the names of the people next door. Air conditioning is one of the culprits.
Michael Lewyn
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought the first half of this book was excellent. Dunkelman shows how a variety of social changes (most notably the Internet) have changed the daily fabric of American life. We spend more time in our closest relationships (usually family) and more time with "outer ring" relationships- that is, people who we share very little with, such as someone we meet online and work with on one problem or cause. "Middle ring" relationships such as relationships with neighbors suffer, as do organizations s ...more
Russell Fox
I started out being somewhat unimpressed with Dunkelman's book, probably because the first part of his argument about the "transformation of American community" was running through arguments and insights that I was already pretty familiar with, and did so in what I thought was unnecessarily "clever" ways (the "Chinatown Bus Effect"!). For the roots of the transformation he pointed to shifts in technology, the increase in wealth and mobility and choice, the rise of authenticity, and the sort of s ...more
I appreciated a couple of ideas presented in this book. The author’s review of the three rings of society—inner, middle and outer—and how we seem to be losing the middle ring. I also was interested in his description of how forward-thinking corporations are trying to bring that middle ring back, because it is the source of creative collaboration and innovation.

There were pretty big chunks of this book, though, that were just whine-y and stale. His description of polarised government, for instan
Mike Denton
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is already a little dated but...

So worth a read. Some of what the author speaks about has already happened and it's worth considering what we need to do now. Not out of some sense of sentimentality about what's been lost but out of the recognition of what we have to do, more intentionally, to make it through.
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Very interesting read. And enforces that we cannot go back to the way things were before social media.
Mark Isaak
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book about changes in American community goes further than others which simply describe the changes. It explains why the changes have occurred, bringing together several disparate ideas into a coherent argument. Its weakest part is a chapter about what can be done about the problems caused by the changes in community (especially social polarization); that chapter, promoting self-discipline, seems to belong in a self-help book rather than a sociology book. More relevant is Dunkelman's point ...more
Marsha Hunter
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This important book piqued my interest because I recently moved to a new neighborhood. Everyone here is friendly and outgoing, constantly giving dinner parties and meeting at concerts and community events. David Brooks, the columnist of the New York Times, recommended this book. It central premise is that we once lived in three rings of family and community, from inner tight-knit to outer casual friendships or polite stranger relationships. The middle ring was comprised of people we work with or ...more
Kyle Nicholas
Mar 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, politics
This book was not what I expected and was actually unlike similar books I have encountered before. It spins the idea of America's supposed "falling apart" from the change in how we interact personally and communally and looks at it in a much more optimistic way. Don't think of it as a loss, but rather an evolution. Yes, things aren't the way they used to be, but does that mean they're worse? How about... different?
Susan Novicki
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book - socially and culturally we are in the third wave and our middle rings (the relationships and volunteering within neighborhoods and communities) are disappearing - after reviewing what is happening in society, government and politics and business the result is that we have to make changes and adjust to the new social system. Definitely worth reading but not a fast read!
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Evolution of how American society groups, from the British colony and feuds to communities and cooperatives to technology-driven networks. it also analyzes how the way the society groups affects education, tolerance, diversity, problem solving, association, politics...
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Definitely skimmed some of it, the book read like a research paper. Interesting discussion though.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another really good one, this focused on the changes to society that have changed the way we connect and interact with our neighbors and community. Really interesting stats and analysis.
Kyle Dargan
Petered out at the end with the discussion of cultivating grit as a means of bolstering "middle-ring" connections, but a very interesting read overall.
Adam Epstein
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great portrayal in the decay of American community.
Jeanne McNabney
Mar 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Pretty good but a lot of reiteration of what we all know.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
An interesting, if somewhat repetitive read. Yes, technology and mobility have taken their toll in the old neighborhood, but there is still hope for meaningful connection.
Melody Warnick
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
My copy looks like a highlighter bled out -- but you may have to be a little wonky about this stuff to love it as much as I did.
Alex Marshall
rated it really liked it
Dec 31, 2017
rated it it was amazing
Nov 23, 2014
rated it liked it
Apr 04, 2019
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