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The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  824 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Americans today are frustrated and anxious. Our economy is sluggish, and leaves workers insecure. Income inequality, cultural divisions, and political polarization increasingly pull us apart. Our governing institutions often seem paralyzed. And our politics has failed to rise to these challenges.

No wonder, then, that Americans -- and the politicians who represent them --
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Basic Books
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Kathryn Bashaar
Jan 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
I've been targeting some of my reading lately at trying to figure out how we ended up with a greedy, crude, narcissistic liar for president-elect. This book came highly recommended but was very disappointing.
First, the author spent the first 100 pages making his main point. The US used to be very united around similar values and a narrow range of political positions, and now we are more fractured. We used to listen to the same news sources; now we have more options and tend to listen to the ones
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one book that lives up to its hype and is simply a must read if you are interested in politics and public affairs in this country. Levin brilliantly lays out the problematic nostalgia that fuels our politics and our frustration with it at the same time. He then lays out a beautiful alternative that actually acknowledges the problems we face and argues for strategies that are likely to retain the progress and positives of our current culture and economy and seek to address their failures ...more
Douglas Wilson
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this, for the most part. Levin had some very valuable insights and observations, but his prescriptions for what we should do about it all were too detached (e.g. The Right should . . . The Left should, and I ask, "who's going to make 'em?"). Nevertheless, as an observer, Levin was often invaluable. I especially appreciated his distinction of identity and community. Worth reading, at any rate. ...more
Charles Haywood
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“The Fractured Republic” is a fantastically original book. It is very optimistic, yet clear-eyed, which is a rare combination. Most optimistic books about modern politics are also simplistic. They typically consist of vague and belligerent paeans demanding the recapture of America’s past. Yuval Levin’s book, on the other hand, is the very opposite. It is precise and even-handed. And far from demanding recapture of the past, Levin explicitly rejects any such attempt. At the same time, Levin belie ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
How do we make our fractured republic a society of human flourishing? Levin rejects both the progressive Left's prescription for consolidating more power in the national government and the libertarian Right's prescription of expanding individual liberty without regard for whether we as a people, through our governments (federal, state, local), are making space for and promoting institutions that will form citizens with enough moral maturity to choose the good, true, and beautiful.

Instead Levin c
Dec 24, 2016 rated it liked it
In my quest to read from many perspectives, I picked up this book, which was a good read. I thought the first half was very good, with an analysis of the paralysis of nostalgia for both political parties. But his cultural analysis was flat, and the second half of the book seemed to be filled with vague opinions ("Expressive individualism....points toward moral chaos.") But his bottom line prescription fits for all perspectives --- work locally, whether through civic groups, churches, non-profit ...more
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Yuval Levin does an amazing job in diagnosing how the current leadership of the Democrat and Republican Parties are blinded by nostalgia for bygone eras that were only ever going to be temporary and are impossible to recapture. He makes the case that the US has for decades been undergoing a de-consolidation of sorts and that politicians seem blind to this larger trend. He then points out the problems this is causing with the current political dialogue.

The second part is ideas about where to go
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: post-trump
This book started out mildly interesting (both Democrats and Republicans are nostalgic for the good times - but isn't everyone always nostalgic for the good times). Levin's discussion of "economic issues" was fine, although he conveniently left out many details (most notably the impact of the criminal justice system on entrenched poverty) that didn't suit his conservative agenda. By the time he got to the culture wars, I was flat out pissed. Blah blah blah traditional families are great. Blah bl ...more
Jul 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Mostly poli-sci babble but I like the term "selective nostalgia" as a description of the glorious past that both the right and left yearn for. ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
More detailed review coming, but this book was a thoughtful and enjoyable analysis of America from the conservative perspective offering America a path forward.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
As the author stated, this is basically a very long essay in which the author is working through the polarization in America, but not between Democrat and Republic per se, but more between the philosophies of the "Left" (progressives) and the "Right" (conservatives) and how each side's nostalgic look at their "peak" historical period in the second half of the 20th century is causing problems in current times because neither side is able to let go of the past and adapt their core philosophies to ...more
Aug 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm giving this a 5, not because it was perfect (I want more citations, graphs, numbers😅), but because this is his best work yet.

Like I said, this could use more footnotes. But, then, I'm the kind of person who wants a footnote after every sentence. Even though he had some really great info.

When compared with his other books, this has less fluff, feels less inflated, and presents more specific information. He admits his conservative leanings but spends a fair amount of time looking at the issu
Tim Casteel
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
If you like the word "bifurcated", you're going to love this book! Seriously. Can't tell you how many times he talked about the "bifurcated consolidation" of America.

I felt the author was guilty of unnecessary
obfuscation (isn't it great that the word that means "making something unintelligible" is itself an unintelligible word?!).

Douglas Hyde has written: "never use a long word where a short one will serve equally well, never write with the idea of proving one’s own erudition but rather in or
Miles Smith
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Kevin's work is weigh reading. My main criticism is that it's a terribly dry dread (in all honesty I skipped significant sections) and that much of his content has been offered in other forums in a more dynamic medium. Kevin's work is a sort of clearing house of conservative and libertarian reflections regarding the fracturing of United States society in the first two decades of the 21st Century. The progressive reflection of this work, George Packer's The Unwinding, was a better written and mor ...more
Zack Clemmons
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
After a hitch in my first read of this one about a year ago, I finished it this month in audiobook form. As with so many books these days, Levin's excellent on diagnosis, and I really appreciated how he took the "Coming Apart" narrative so overplayed in conservative circles and presented it across economic, political, and social lines in such a fine-grained manner. It was also a balm, in many ways, for my conservative core, so burned-out in these latter days--a cogent presentation of what and wh ...more
Jul 14, 2022 rated it really liked it
Conservatism as it is meant to be (Burkean, not Trumpian). Short on specific policies, but a good overview of the basic problems and tendencies of American politics since WW2, and the general principles Burkean conservatives should use to approach those problems. But oh how far are the Republicans from this type of conservatism, which is sadly rare among those with influence and power.
Neil White
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written and coming from a conservative point of view about the broken nature of our political dialogue. Some good points even if I would differ based on political philosophy on solutions or some of the means of diagnosis.
Vadim Polikov
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I typically don’t read books that have anything to do with contemporary politics, but this author, Yuval Levin, kept impressing me each time I heard him interviewed on my favorite (non-political) podcast. Unlike what I imagine most political books to be, this ended up being a very insightful, thoughtful book tracing the US political and social culture since the 1950’s, and suggesting some thoughtful ways forward. As a disclaimer, Levin is a conservative thinker, works at the conservative leaning ...more
Jon Norimann
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a weird book. The fracture in US politics is according to the author caused by nostalgia. Levin's proposed solution is going back to old values. Somehow he fails to see this is exactly nostalgia. Watching this confusion unfold is the only reason for reading this book. All the rest is well known stuff. Marriage good, internationalism bad etc etc. ...more
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2017
I found myself wanting to give this book a standing ovation in several places, and Yuval Levin has seized on a very compelling diagnosis of our current predicament as a country--our two parties are beset by crippling nostalgia for bygone elements of the 20th century.

Levin is a wonderful writer and thinker; this is the communitarian conservative manifesto we have needed for a while, but hasn't existed in one place. I hope many take its lessons to heart, but I fear that we are probably a couple o
Joel Fletcher
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A modern political book that actually makes you think--how refreshing!
Elizabeth Neff
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to enjoy this book as a thought exercise because I fall on a different side of the political spectrum. Made it about half way through and could not continue. Too many platitudes, not enough facts. Zero concrete examples to back up wistful theorizing.
Picked up All the Presidents Men for my next political read instead.
Justin Lonas
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Levin updates Tocqueville with a hard look at the brokenness of political and civic culture in 21st century America. Though his writing style can be a bit repetitive at times, he advances a well-researched, well-thought-out argument that the way forward for our country cannot be found in the continuous appeals (from both left & right) to a nostalgia for the lost consolidation of the postwar era. The consensus of those years, he maintains, was not the norm but an aberration from the much more dif ...more
Bill Berg Berg
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent thesis and work -- just too lengthy to be read by most in this age of short attention spans, thus the 4 vs 5 stars.

Yuval asserts that the reason for our division is that both left and right are being driven by nostalgia for "the 50's - 60's" ... a time that will not be repeated, since the conditions of those times are not likely to be repeated. America as the undisputed world economic power since other free nations were devastated by war, a population that had come together in the h
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
I was super impressed with this book as a whole, as it coalesces a lot of things I've been thinking about lately. It starts off slowly, and I'm sure critiques can be made of the necessarily generalized narrative he gives in the earlier part of the book, but it gets steadily better as one goes on. If you find the "setting the table" chapters a bit dry, don't give up.

In short, Levin argues that partisan politics is hobbled by "competing nostalgias" that get in the way of productive policy debates.
Andrew Figueiredo
Jun 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Following politics closely leads one to conclude that there's a hell of a lot wrong with government today, but where does one even start a reasoned critique? This book tries to answer this question. Levin argues that bipartisan nostalgia for the unrecoverable socioeconomic/political combinations of postwar America is largely at fault. Politicians are unable to update their approaches. For Levin, the postwar era represented a transition between national unity, homogeneity, consolidated institutio ...more
Wesley Roth
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Fractured Republic" is without a doubt, one of the best policy books I've read in years about America and why we have become so polarized as a country. Levin's core premise is that both Republicans and Democrats are striving to return to each party's "golden age" (1960s and 1980s specifically) where "things worked" in each party's view. Levin notes on p. 102: "Our politics of competing nostalgias often translation into a fight between individualism and statism that neglects the middle layers of ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law-policy
The conservative movement seems to be nearly dead. The election of Donald Trump has, among other things, demonstrated a priority of power over principle.

Yuval Levin is part of a remnant of conservative thinkers who value the principles that form the heart of conservative ideals. Levin's book is more than just an articulation on conservative values. Rather, it is a hard look at the deep rot within both political parties. His argument begins with the premise, laid out in persuasive detail, that 21
The American Conservative
"As we all know by now, ideas have consequences. No ideas have been more consequential for our own time than those that emerged in the middle of the 20th century. They ushered in what Princeton historian Daniel T. Rodgers called, in his 2011 book of the same name, the Age of Fracture."

Read the full review, "Make America Small Again," on our website:

Oct 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Good insight on our history, and how we got to the current state we are in. Unfortunately, Levin kept pounding in the same solution (empowering the middle layers of our society - neighborhoods, churches, community organizations, and schools to manage issues) to the point of exhaustion in this book. Also, No real clear ideas on how to implement his ideas. I guess for the lesser intellects to figure out.
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American political analyst, public intellectual, academic and journalist. His areas of specialty include health care, entitlement reform, economic and domestic policy, science and technology policy, political philosophy, and bioethics.
He is the founding editor of National Affairs, director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a contributing editor

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