Coming Apart

Coming Apart

The State of White America, 1960-2010

Book - 2012
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A critique of the white American class structure argues that the paths of social mobility that once advanced the nation are now serving to further isolate an elite upper class while enforcing a growing and resentful white underclass.
Publisher: New York [N.Y.] : Crown Forum, c2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307453426
0307453421
Branch Call Number: 305.8009 MURRAY
Characteristics: viii, 407 p. : ill., charts ; 24 cm

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g
gaetanlion
May 10, 2018

Murray observes that our society is polarized through cognitive sorting. At the top individuals with more human capital develop their full potential within a knowledge based marketplace. The median income at the 95th percentile has risen rapidly since 1960. While, blue collar union manufacturing jobs are gone. At the 25th percentile income has remained flat since 1960.

Cognitive sorting has generated an upper class as the market value of brains has accelerated. This has translated into wealth channels that enhance the potential of brainy individuals. College sorting has enhanced the identification of top talent. Colleges are tiered with the top ones becoming more selective and capturing a large share of the top youth cognitive talent. The perpetrating mechanism is cognitive homogamy where partners mate with similar education and IQ. In 1960, only 3% of couples had both college degrees. By 2010 that proportion had risen to 25%. The cognitive top tier transmit their high IQ from one generation to the next.

This intensified cognitive sorting has had two impacts. First, society has benefited through a tremendous boost in productivity, and innovation (think Steve Jobs). The second impact has been a rise in income inequality. Murray considers those two implications inevitable. You can't have one without the other. If a society facilitates individuals reaching their full potential, you will get greater outcome divergence.

Murray categorizes two segments within the white population. The first one is the upper-middle class that he calls Belmont (top 20% with college degree and white collar occupation). The second one is the working class he calls Fishtown (bottom 30% with only high school degree).

For Belmont (top 20%) social trends have held up well since 1960s. Their marriage metrics have remained stable (marriage rate, % with very happy marriage). Their industriousness measures have remained stable (unemployment rate, labor participation rate). Honesty measures have remained constant (imprisonment rate, arrest rate, crime rate all at very low levels). Belmont's educational level is on an upswing.

For Fishtown (bottom 30%) all social trends are deteriorating. Marriage rate and labor participation rate for males have plummeted. Divorce rate, single parenthood rate, unemployment rate, imprisonment rate, and crime rate have all skyrocketed. Within this group, he observes excessive reliance on government welfare associated with an unwillingness to work characterized by working the minimum to qualify for and readily take unemployment benefits (the Sunshine Clubs). Disability fraud is rampant.

This lower class (Fishtown) is close to disintegrating. He states: "The raw material that makes community even possible has diminished so much in Fishtown that the situation may be beyond retrieval… That raw material is social trust... The existence of social trust is a core explanation of why some cultures create wealth and others do not."

In one of the last chapters, Murray update his analysis to include all ethnic groups not just the whites (capturing the top 20% for Belmont and bottom 30% for Fishtown). Most trends are undistinguishable whether you look at whites or all ethnic groups (the exceptions are higher crime rate and imprisonment rate when including all ethnic groups as Blacks and Latinos incur much higher rate of both). Murray concludes on page 276: "... White America is not headed in one direction and nonwhite America in another.

s
StarGladiator
Jul 20, 2017

Many problems with Murray's work, too many assumptions. First, it is predicated on his fanciful notion that some sort of meritocracy exists in America; doesn't exist between or among various racial categories. As Rothstein's The Color of Law proves unequivocally, the wealth discrepancy between whites and blacks can be solely ascribed to home ownership and the ban on black home ownership in 20th century America.
The variances between white socioeconomic levels still cannot be ascribed to meritocratic reasons until that time an actual meritocracy comes into existence.
Forty-seven years ago there was a series of articles published in The Atlantic magazine [cannot recall the sociologist/author, think his name was Jensen???] which factually proved that the greatest indicator and predictor of success in America was the family one was born into.
I would admit to Murray's sloppy thinking on the day that I see George W. Bush's AFQT scores, which has been denied all my FOIA requests. Since Bush attended enlisted basic training awhile before me, yet miraculously and mysteriously graduated as an officer [!?!?!?!?], and would later - - without ever attending USAF flight school - - be listed on ANG rosters as both an officer [!?!?!?!] and a pilot, is highly indicative of any lack of meritocratic process in America. Could the submediocre John McCain have possibly gotten into the Naval Academy without his war criminal daddy, Admiral McCain, pulling strings????
The late Richard Holbrooke, who flunked the Foreign Service Officer's Exam, and flunked the Army OCS entrance exam, and barely scraped through journalism school, only got into the foreign service - - which he clearly did not qualify for - - due to family connections to Dean Rusk. Each and every time a qualified white person [and other categories, of course, but this author is focusing on whites] was barred from a position due to this nepotistic preference system.
Which exists to this day . . . how many countless corporations did I work at as a contractor which had corporate laws forbidding nepotism, yet practiced it religiously? Far too many . . .
Any inferior American white can be employed as a BPO specialist [the traitor who offshores your job repeatedly] but be unable to qualify as an engineer, programmer, scientist, technican, et cetera!

a
AHylaEHoldorf
Jul 18, 2017

I've got no problem with Murray's look at white people in their natural environment. What's troubling, and deserving of further study, is the assertion that an emerging body of knowledge shows how class inequality is distorting Americans' genetic health. If this is true—if reduced mobility is accreting genetic advantages to the upper class—then libertarians like Murray, liberals and conservatives need a broad, shared campaign against generational inequality as a threat both to our democracy and our public health.

r
RoyalJellyIII
Jun 02, 2017

This book analyses class in the US from 1960s onwards. It consists of three parts: one dealing with the new elite class, one with the new lower class, and the third part drawing some kind of conclusion.
In a nutshell, the core thesis is that a new elite class which is isolated from "mainstream" America, while at the same time a new lower class has emerged in which the core values of industriousness, centrality of marriage, religiosity and honesty have been ditched. According to Murray, the problem is that:

The new upper class still does a good job of practicing some of the virtues, but it no longer preaches them. It has lost self-confidence in the rightness of its own customs and values, and preaches nonjudgmentalism instead.
...
Personally and as families, its members are successful. But they have abdicated their responsibility to set and promulgate standards.

It is the first book by Murray that I read, and I think it is a very good read. The style is engaging, and it is packed with factual information.

For some reasons why there's a breakdown in societies globally and increasing separation of people into upper and lower classes with fewer in the middle, read Rana Foroohar's "Makers and Takers" which details the financializing of capitalist economies, particularly the United States, caused by powerful industry lobbyists for the investment bankers influencing politicians to allow merging of Commercial Banking with Investment Banking, giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy, etc..

HANSI_O Oct 23, 2014

Im trying to puta hold on Coming Apart,by Charles Murray.You seem to have made changes to the system.I want it at Bay Ridge during November at latest.John Morrison

b
bookwormjeph
Sep 08, 2014

An in depth analysis of the state of the USA in 1960 and the differences in 2010. It focuses mostly on the breakdown of communities and society in general and the hollowing out of the middle class. There are likely similarities here in NZ as regard the gap between the rich and poor. The author is open about where he is coming from in regards to his personal politics- he is all for less government, no welfare system etc. He explains the foundation of the American society, how it was laid and the intentions of the founding fathers. He also states this is what makes the US unique and different from other people. This is delivered with a tinge of arrogance and a sense of superiority at times. Look beyond this though and he does lay out a fairly balanced book.

t
tsawwassen
Oct 31, 2012

Charles Murray paints a very disturbing picture of a growing underclass in America which is brutally honest.

When you look at the mass media you see an actual glorification of this underclass everywhere that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.

Two TV shows come to mind.

Shameless (US version) and Sons of Anarchy.

Sons of Anarchy is nothing more than the glorification of a criminal biker gang that deals in drugs, extortion, and murder on an almost daily basis.

The moral universe here has been turned upside down because these criminals are portrayed as somehow noble and in the end they get away with their nefarious behaviour and are triumphant in it.

Can you seriously see this on TV in America at any other time in it's history.

On this dimension Murray is totally accurate.

One criticism of Murray however is that he sees America from the distorted prism of the Ivy League, specifically Harvard University.

In one section of the book he talks about visiting a box factory many years ago and being amazed at the complex machines and organization of the place.

He then goes on to say that he has never been in a factory or blue collar setting before or since.

His perception of the world is distorted from his ivy tower.

How does he think that food ends up on his table, and does he consider the vastly complex manufacturing and supply lines that give him every consumer good imaginable from his view over the commons of Harvard University.

Business Administration was clearly not his major.

d
delfon
Oct 26, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/books/review/charles-murray-examines-the-white-working-class-in-coming-apart.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

RedDragon77 Oct 16, 2012

This is a book about white America? seriously! This is a whole book about an issue without a solution? So what is the point/

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