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Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  284 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Now a Washington Post Bestseller.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump proclaimed, “The American Dream is dead,” a message that resonated across the country. Washington Examiner editor Timothy Carney traveled Middle America, pored over county-level maps and data, and sorted through sociological studies, and had a startling revelation: Donald Trump is right
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 19th 2019 by Harper
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3.96  · 
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 ·  284 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Conservative Commentator Speaks About White American Alienation

I didn’t realize when I received this book that the author was a Conservative. I read the book but wasn’t swayed by his commentary. He states that the centralization of government and lack of community has caused the communities supporting Trump to be unhappy. I suspect it is lack of economic opportunities and inability to live a life full of the necessities that are harming people. The communities that are most challenged don’t hav
Trey Grayson
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a long time as Carney is someone who I greatly respect as a writer and political observer. The book met my high expectations.

Carney, citing social scientists, economists and other commentators from all sides of the political spectrum, makes a compelling case for the importance of declining civil society, and the resulting alienation, is the biggest challenge facing an America.

He convincingly finds evidence of the rise of the early support for
Russell Fox
I liked this book much more than I expected to, especially after noticing that Timothy Carney's books include the delightfully titled Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses. But, with only a few unfortunate exceptions, such conservative hackery is basically absent from this book. Carney has a real thesis--not an original one by any means, but still, the exploration of the collapse of civil society in various p ...more
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Graham Sumner was a Yale professor in the 1880s who coined the phrase “the forgotten man”. It came from an essay he wrote about the costs of government - the forgotten man was the guy who has to pay for the largesse of politicians; i.e. the taxpayer. When FDR came into office he perverted the meaning by talking about all the people who were suffering during the depression and who he was going to save. Move forward 60 years and Hillary Clinton appropriated an odd meaning of civil society ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Let me start with a story.

Back in 2001, I worked for the U.S. Census Bureau. Many people don't know that the Census Bureau does much more than simply count the number of people in the US every ten years. There are ongoing surveys that Americans are asked to participate in. During my years with the Census Bureau, I went to people's homes and asked a list of questions for various government surveys about employment, housing starts, income, health, and many other important topics. The specific data
Heath Salzman
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2019, culture
This book ties together much of what I have read in Charles Murray, Yuval Levine, Robert Putnam and others. Indeed, Carney sounds very similar to Putnam in his style of writing. I am fascinated by how much similarity there is between Kuyperean public theology and Roman Catholic. Carney is a big proponent of the Church as an essential component of a functioning civil society, which I appreciate. He also lays out a good framework for how the Church can be a source of immense good in this cultural ...more
Maria Wroblewski
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Some good observations marred by totally debunkable observations. As with many books of this sort there are a lot of repetitions. I gave it 3 stars for the idea that prosperity and the American dream are based in community.
Andrew Figueiredo
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Alienated America” is the kind of book I read as an eBook but am buying a physical copy of because it’s so incredibly good. I’ve spent about the last 4 years reading all sorts of books in an attempt to understand the phenomenon of right-wing populism. Over time, I began to believe that this populist surge arises from a lack of trust in institutions. Carney’s book sums this up in a brilliant way and puts a voice to a lot of what I’ve been thinking for the past few years. He manages to explain so ...more
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-read, audiobooks
So I put this on hold at the library without knowing much more about it than the title. And as someone interested in place and social captial I was interested. So I open up the audiobook, and then like 20 minutes in, I'm like:

And I decide to read the full book description. Whoops. Didn't realize he was a conservative writer. I decided to sally forth and listen to the rest of it. Honestly, that gif of Belle sums up my reaction to the whole book pretty well.

I guess I don't even really know where
Carney was researching why Trump did well in some Republican primaries and did very poorly in others. His research, and the research that he borrowed from Senator Mike Lee is that places with shrinking or vanishing public services and social cohesion where ripe for the picking. Places where community support and functioning institutions still exist didn't initially vote for Trump.

Why I started this book: Fascinating title and the blurb mentioned my hometown of Salt Lake City.

Why I finished it: T
Thing Two
Even though this author is an editor at the—conservative—Washington Examiner, and one of the book blurbs is by—conservative—Jason Chaffetz, author of—eye roll—The Deep State, and the author cannot help from pointing out to the reader which are the liberal and/or leftist publications, I still found this book extremely valuable.

Carney takes studies by contemporary writers like Robert Putnam, William Julius Wilson, Charles Murray, and research from the economists Raj Chetty, who studied social capi
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
1. Parts of America are booming, where college educated people marry each other and have children, and the children grows up with hope. However, in other parts, factories closed because of automation and globalisation (China), jobs are gone and communities are destroyed; men stay at home and play video games and watch TV: people don’t get married and kids grow up in single parent households and have no hope. So they dope themselves and die early.
2. Married men earn more; twin studies showed tha
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I’ve been struggling with how to sum up this book; however, immediately upon finishing it I emailed this to two of my pastors. Perhaps this will suffice as a review:

“...While it might seem like a political book at first because it explores parts of the country that did and didn’t vote for Trump, it is really so much more than that. It explores the critical roles churches have/had in our communities, and as people turn away from churches, they feel more alienated from society.

I got my copy from
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jj-fellows
I think everyone should read this book. Probably about 20 pages into the book, I was calling people to tell them to read this book. If you've heard from me that you should read this book, I just wanted to confirm that I have now finished it and still think that you should read it. It's so good. And I'm not just saying that because of the heavy emphasis on how wonderful Iowa is (or at least, how wonderful our Dutch people are) (while not Dutch, I also very much appreciate how great the Dutch Iowa ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a slew of books on the sociology behind the 2016 presidential election this one stands out as especially well researched. The author relies on all sorts of evidence, including voting behavior down to the precinct level, well selected empirical academic studies, arguments from a range of other books, and more. And he employs it all to make a convincing argument on the pervasive sense of alienation caused by the systematic hollowing out of the American civil society in the past half a century. ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book is incredibly insightful and taught me a lot about the community I live in. I've recommended it to many people. Carney is very thorough in his research. Certainly worth reading. I do think the book could be 2/3 of its length... it's hard to be thorough without being repetitive, and I often found Carney repeating himself.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everyone ought to read this book, seriously. It covers work. It covers marriage. It covers civil society and mediating institutions. It covers immigration. It covers the middle class. It covers the elites. It covers the opioid epidemic. It covers the rise of Trump. It covers the need for strong churches. It covers outsourcing. It covers the American dream. It is full of social science and statistics, but also interviews and travels from around the country. It is optimistic about the potential in ...more
Bob Costello
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book, that addresses some of the major problems America faces. Clarifies what divides America today between strong robust communities and those communities that are failing.
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
If only we all went to church then America would be fixed right up. So claims the author. Color me skeptical.

Text highlights extremes as examples, dubiously references statistics, and pushes author's view as the only way. Typical for pop-sociology commentary. Focus is upon degradation of white working class population centers, rise of immigrant communities within same, and a thinly veiled hatred, contempt for wealthy liberal enclaves.

Thankfully, author acknowledges automation does more to hurt w
Russel Henderson
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Important look at our social and political malaise that treats it first and perhaps foremost as the consequence of the decline of civil society. Where Carney shines is his inclusion of church not merely as a spiritual salve (though he certainly highlights that role) but rather as an indispensable element of that civil society. Carney argues provocatively that secularization bears much responsibility for the decline of civil society and civic virtue. Carney wields a great deal of social science d ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alicia by: John J. Miller in his Bookmonger podcast
Well-researched explanations of why failing social connections are responsible for the great divide in America.

10-minute podcast with the author:

“But maybe the things we think ACCOMPANY the American Dream are the things that really ARE the American Dream. What if the T-ball game, the standing-room-only high school Christmas concert, the parish potluck, and decorating the community hall for a wedding- what if those activities are not the dressings a
Rebecca Blomgren
I first picked up Alienated America because I felt I would be able to relate to it. Having grown up in a rural county, I’ve seen the slow decline taking place around my community. Stores and public centers disappearing, homes steadily deteriorating, people leaving one by one. But I can also see that my hometown still has it better than most. I picked up Alienated America to try and understand what’s happening to this country, and why it seems to be splitting at the seams.

Although Carney ope
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I had some misgivings when I picked up this book from the library and discovered the author also wrote "Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses," but the book was very even-handed. I was not always thrilled with where he was going but he had the research to back up all the steps he followed.

The premise is that well-educated well-off people marry each other and live in economically homogeneous subdivisions. Thi
**I'd love an alternative version of this book that analyzes the Bernie Sanders supporters, because they're obviously not just a bunch of Millennial losers living in Mama's basement while ignoring the $300K in student debt they owe for their degree in Medieval Studies, and I bet there'd be some overlap with the early Trump supporters, at least as far as alienation is concerned. But I digress.**

Post-mortem on election 2016; 3.5 stars. This book examined why some segments of the population were dr
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the few books where I got halfway through and wanted to buy a copy for friends and recommend it to everyone. I backed off a little toward the end, but very highly recommended.

The answer is not, as some have jumped to conclusions, *just* attend church. For those who are not religious (especially myself), there are a ton of other options; but the message (that I took) was to be a part of, and build community. Again, leading in from some other recent reading (Howard Schultz's most recent boo
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nls-audio
Just how did Donald Trump get through the hurdles of the early Republican primaries? He was up against formidable candidates by any measure, yet he inexorably dispatched them all. How?

That’s the question this author answers in this book. And the answers are fascinating indeed. So who are you blaming? Texans perhaps? No, not so much. Surely those who think like Utah conservatives are responsible. If you buy that, you’ve not read this.

According to this author, Trump did better among people who bel
Donna Hines
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was afraid to read this as I had a feeling it would be all things DT.
Lord knows I've had enough anxiety for a lifetime having married and happily divorced a malignant narcissist and certainly don't need more.
However, this was the opposite end of the spectrum in examining not persay his actions or inactions but how he came to be and why and the voters who brought him to the light.
I'm obviously not for him but I can tell you many here in Luzerne County Pa voted for him so much so we made headlin
Scott Martin
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
(Audiobook) (3.5 stars) Found myself more intrigued by this book than I thought. The writer works for the Washington Examiner, so this takes a right wing view on things, and some of the insight is very much from the modern conservative playbook. Yet, the strength of this work is in his analysis on just how Trump managed to do so well, but also how in areas you thought he should have done well, he didn’t. Basically, it boils down to the definition of the American, community. Where th ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars....This was a very well researched book, and although it was an interesting subject, it was a bit of a slow read for me. It is filled with several statistics, studies and contributors in the field of economics, sociology and social capital. The extensive resources and research certainly give the reader of solid understanding of the subject matter. Perhaps this book is best suited for those who really need to understand how Donald Trump got elected, as well as the tremendous value of so ...more
John Shade
May 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is pop sociology trying to sell an ideology. The author draws a lot of broad, massive conclusions based on extremely limited evidence and vague concepts like "community." The fundamental issue at the center is the sloppy conflation of correlation and causation. Carney is a columnist, not a scientist, and is selling the reemergence of religion as the cure to Trump inclined voters. Good community causes good community causes positive societal health factors causes American Dream causes voting ...more
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“Europe historically was populated by two types of people. The first type all followed the rules, worked together, and kept order. The second type all liked to go their own way, take risks, and test boundaries. Then one day, the second group all got on a boat and sailed to America.” 1 likes
“O] n average,” Brad Wilcox writes, with the data to back it up, “Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners; less likely to abuse them; more likely to enjoy happier marriages; and less likely to have been divorced.” 13” 0 likes
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