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Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 [Hardcover]

Charles Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 Jan 2012
From the bestselling author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, this startling long-lens view shows how America is coming apart at the seams that historically have joined our classes.


In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity.

Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.

The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk.

The evidence in Coming Apart is about white America. Its message is about all of America.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group, Division of Random House Inc (31 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307453421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307453426
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.3 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Cautionary Work 20 Feb 2012
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Charles Murray is one of the most distinguished and insightful social scientists of our time. His work over the past few decades has systematically and methodically probed into some of the most consequential and momentous societal and policy issues. Unfortunately, due to the highly politicized and contentious nature of many of such topics, he and his work have been subject to some very severe and withering criticism over the years. It's a testament to Murray's courage, integrity, and intellectual honesty that he stuck to his guns and pursued his research and intellectual interest, often paying a pretty high price in his professional career.

"Coming Apart" is intended as Murray's valedictory. It's a book that crowns his professional career, recapitulates certain points and topics that have long been at the center of his interest, and offers his views of what the future may hold - both for the society and for the research into these issues. It is also a sequel of sorts to "Losing Ground", Murray's seminal 1980s book that explored the consequences (intended and unintended) of various welfare policies between the 1960s and 1980s. That book has pretty much launched Murray's career as a public intellectual, making his influence well beyond the academic and scholarly circles. "Coming Apart" explores the consequences of those same policies over the period of another thirty years of their implementation, ending roughly around the year 2010.

The first two parts of the book are primarily scholarly and descriptive. Here Murray lays down the facts in a very straightforward and informative way. He has always been incredibly adroit at presenting even the most arcane social science data in a way that makes them seem almost effortlessly intuitive.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Emc2
Format:Hardcover
Don't let Mr. Murray controversial Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life or the criticism you might already heard from this book from keep you away from this brilliant work. As opposed to most recent books dealing with America's decline, this book looks at the cultural and sociological reasons behind the decline, rather than the pure economics view. And another key issue is that the analysis is done using only white Americans as a sample, so there the results are free of any racial bias, and the results are extended to the entire population only near the end of the book.

Nevertheless, Mr. Murray, a declared libertarian, closes the book with a chapter totally biased by his political and moral beliefs. Actually, some of his conclusions are so outrageous, I stopped reading the book short of a few pages to the end (but I did finish it after all). You just wondered how come someone can deliver such a brilliant analysis and reach such wishful thinking, biased and subjective conclusions completely ignoring the effects of globalization and technological change (thus the four star rating instead of five).

Several of the conclusions are so disconnected from reality, that instead of Europe, Mr. Murray just need to look at any of the dozens of developing countries with the same problems among the poor who do not enjoy the welfare benefits Americans do. In fact, just look at the Brazilian example and the well-known "favelas" as the perfect real life example in contradiction of one of his key conclusions.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming Apart 29 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010

Much of Charles Murrays recent work has been very predictive/prophetic; as is this. It defines and details the condition of the new white working class in America and illustrates its development since the 1960's and how this correlates with a progressive deviation from the founding father's(of the US) combined pillars of strength, industriousness, marriage, virtue and religiosity. We can see all this here, in Britain and it augurs badly for us. A must read, if you care about these things, if you have read The Bell Curve and others or if you care about the future for your children. A bit chewy at first but graphically (literally) illustrated and accessible to all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Beautifully written and based on an incredible amount of research.
Anyone interested in the American class system and how it has developed during the past fifty years should read this book.
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9 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Jonathan Gifford VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Coming Apart is the first book that I have read by the libertarian Charles Murray, and when reading about the author I wondered why he was such a controversial figure. Now I know the answer. He's nuts. Or rather, his ideas are nuts, but he is evidently a highly intelligent man, which makes him dangerous.

I am a little ashamed at only having discovered this recently, because Murray has been around, being nuts, for a long time: he co-authored The Bell Curve, which was published in 1994 and created a storm of controversy - unsurprisingly, since the book's basic premise is that intelligence is largely hereditary and that low intelligence is inextricably linked with anti-social behaviour. Ergo, the state will have no option but to defend itself against people of low intelligence - who are on the increase, because people of low intelligence are having more babies than people of high intelligence. These people of low intelligence will become increasingly dependent on a welfare state, and will prevent America from staying exceptional. 'It is difficult to imagine the United States preserving its heritage of individualism, equal rights before the law, free people running their own lives, once it is accepted that a significant part of the population must be made permanent wards of the states,' wrote the authors of The Bell Curve. By 'wards of the states' they mean permanent recipients of welfare. I don't think they were suggesting that all people of low intelligence should be locked up. That would be crazy, obviously.

But back to the book in question. In Coming Apart, Murray argues that there are two kinds of American: the right kind and the wrong kind, and that the wrong kind is dragging America down.
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