Corinne E. Blackmer's Reviews > Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010

Coming Apart by Charles Murray
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's review
Mar 09, 2012

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bookshelves: non-fiction, contemporary, criticism
Recommended to Corinne by: NY Times
Recommended for: Pilar Stewart
Read from February 12 to 15, 2012 — I own a copy

Charles Murray, of "The Bell Curve" fame or infamy, has here produced a fascinating and illuminating look at class relations in America today. What he finds is a mind boggling disparity between the lives of the upper-upper class and those of working class white Americans. He makes the point that until (or around) 1960, these two groups had much more in common. They ate the same foods (or the upper class ate better varieties of the same food), had similar recreations, and were both bound in a network of shared social values, including marriage, social and religious groups, neighborhood, and self-help. What has happened since that time is that white America has thoroughly fallen apart. Crime abounds; in-live boyfriends grind out their sustenance off the welfare payments of their girlfriends, participation in civic and volunteer groups has declined precipitously, the rate of divorce has skyrocketed, and the rate of marriage plunged. Children are increasing stressed by these unpropitious circumstances, including getting lung disease from a live in boyfriend making methamphetamine in the kitchen sink. This is but one example of the general decline in civilization itself. In the meantime, the upper upper class, the ruling class of the United States, hangs out with and knows only members of its own set, and is thoroughly out of touch with life for ordinary Americans. Given the fact that members of this "cognitive elite" are setting policy, this is cause for some concern. As Murray is a libertarian, his solution for this problem is less government and, secondarily, greater participation of the upper upper class in middle and working class lives. What he wishes the upper upper class to do is less clear, other than to set an example that marriage and thoughtful parenthood are good ideas that should be followed by the population at large.

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