Coming Apart by Charles Murray

48%

27 Critic Reviews

. . .wonders how the lower class will respond to hearing that the main help it needs is an infusion of its betters’ morals.
-The Economist

Synopsis

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.
 

About Charles Murray

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CHARLES MURRAY is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He first came to national attention in 1984 with Losing Ground. His subsequent books include In Pursuit, The Bell Curve (with Richard J. Herrnstein), What It Means to Be a Libertarian, Human Accomplishment, In Our Hands, and Real Education. He received a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard and a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives with his wife in Burkittsville, Maryland.
 
Published January 31, 2012 by Crown Forum. 434 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Coming Apart
All: 27 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 18

Kirkus

Excellent
Nov 15 2011

Somewhat cautious, nonacademic work meant to persuade broadly and accessibly.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Nicholas Confessore on Feb 10 2012

You will learn about working-class laziness, but you will find little discussion of the decline of trade unions or the rise of a service economy built on part-time work without benefits.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Michael Wolff on Feb 17 2012

. . .the vogue rightwing faux-sociology analysis of the new elite, whose wealth and power hold such sway in the US.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Dec 05 2011

Though it provides much to argue with, the book is a timely investigation into a worsening class divide no one can afford to ignore.

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Bradford Wilcox on Jan 31 2012

He is particularly concerned with the ways in which working-class whites are losing touch with what he calls the four "founding virtues". . .

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Phil Brand on Feb 03 2012

The book’s strongest message is for America’s privileged.

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The Economist

Below average
Feb 04 2012

. . .wonders how the lower class will respond to hearing that the main help it needs is an infusion of its betters’ morals.

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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Frederick Lynch on Feb 12 2012

The primary problem with "Coming Apart" is that Murray's focus on a cultural divide among whites obscures something else: The destruction of values, economic sectors and entire occupational classes by automation and outsourcing.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Robert Samuelson on Feb 26 2012

What’s missing in Murray’s account is history.

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Huffington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Caryl Rivers on Feb 29 2012

Murray has always been the kind of guy who constructs a spine of ideology and then wraps statistics around it. . .

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Huffington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Jared Bernstein on Feb 28 2012

. . .a frustrating book. . .he identifies a real problem, then fails to convincingly document or explain it.

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Slate

Below average
Reviewed by David Haglund on Feb 10 2012

It strikes me as a poor and perhaps telling indicator about Murray’s argument that, in order to get it across, he needs to imagine a fictional town that is (uniformly wealthy).

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The Daily Beast

Below average
Reviewed by Ralph Banks on Feb 08 2012

. . .he wrongly views it through a prism in which one’s success depends wholly on one’s cultural values and genetic endowment.

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The Daily Beast

Below average
Reviewed by David Frum on Feb 06 2012

It is unfortunately not a good book—but its lack of merit in no way detracts from its importance.

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Salon

Below average
Reviewed by Joan Walsh on Jan 30 2012

There are so many problems with Murray’s cause-and-effect arguments it’s hard to know where to begin.

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The New Republic

Below average
Reviewed by Timothy Noah on Feb 20 2012

. . .Murray falls back on solutions that he has proposed before, even when they don’t seem terribly relevant.

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The New Yorker

Below average
Reviewed by Nicholas Lemann on Apr 23 2012

Very little of “Coming Apart” is devoted to government policy.

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Business Week

Below average
Reviewed by Roger Lowenstein on Jan 19 2012

This section brims with political resentments; the carefully researched facts give way to bitter generalizations. . .

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The New York Review of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Andrew Hacker

. . .without warning, Coming Apart turns harsh.

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New York Observer

Below average
Reviewed by Chris Lehmann on Feb 15 2012

. . .where Coming Apart becomes actively offensive is in its account of cultural decline amid the American working class.

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Charlotte Observer

Below average
Reviewed by Clarence Page on Feb 09 2012

. . .Murray offers only half of a reason for these problems and even less of a remedy.

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The American Spectator

Below average
Reviewed by William Tucker

. . .as much as Murray would like to hold the elite responsible for what is happening in blue-collar America, he can never explain exactly why.

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BG Daily News

Excellent
Reviewed by Aaron Hughey on Apr 29 2012

. . .extensively researched, with seven appendices, 30 pages of chapter notes and a 10-page bibliography at the conclusion of the main text.

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City Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Kay Hymowitz on Jan 25 2012

Those of us who reject Murray’s fatalism will still find in Coming Apart a richly detailed corrective to the bumper-sticker arithmetic popularized by the Occupy movement.

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by John Baden on Mar 17 2012

I’m confident that Murray’s analysis is fundamentally sound.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Ed West on Feb 24 2012

Murray remains an optimist, however, because America has been able to reinvent itself before, and as a society is very effective at solving problems.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Ross Douthat on Feb 14 2012

. . .offers a convincing account of how meritocracy has exacerbated the problems that Murray describes. . .

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