Liam's Reviews > The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart

The Big Sort by Bill Bishop
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's review
May 25, 2012

it was amazing
Read from May 25 to 28, 2012

"We were seeing ... a cultural shift powered by prosperity and economic security. Freed from want and worry, people were reordering their lives around their values, their tastes, and their beliefs. They were clustering in communities of like-mindedness ... " (12)

"Tradition, economic class and occupation, religious denomination, civic structures, and party politics -- the ways of life that had molded the country over the previous century -- were losing significance. The new society was more about personal taste and worldview than public policy. It was as much or more concerned with self-expression and belief as social class and economics." (104)

"[Robert] Putnam's groundbreaking analysis gave s the data, and we set to work examining our high-tech cities with his measures of civic health. In fact, there was a relationship between the health of the local civic culture and the well-being of the economy. It was negative." (141)

"Of course, in a strict sense, place no longer limits the availability of goods. People can rent obscure movies through Netflix and buy books at that their local bookstores can't afford to stock. Digital technology and cheap transportation have given everyone access to nearly everything, no matter where they live. In the geography of niche markets, however, people can best fill their lives with the stuff or experiences they want only if they live around others with the same tastes." (201)

"A patchwork democracy is emerging: caffeinated federalism, representation by interest groups, decision making by nonelected officials, and, for those who are financially able, philanthropy as direct action to promote a social outcome. Americans are adopting an ad hoc style of governance, a niche democracy that tries to reconcile the demands of citizens today with laws and customs created over two centuries by people with very different ways of life. Political life may have been emaciated over the past thirty years, but the Big Sort has served other institutions well." (300)

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