2 November 2012 0 Comments

Coming Apart Part 2: White Working Class Fishtown- Values and Behavior Have Consequences – What You Believe Matters

Sociologist Charles Murray presents another perspective on social pathologies:  Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010  published 31 January 2012 Amazon Link

New York Times reviews the book, somewhat sympathetically, and concedes that ” Few people today would dismiss the idea that values, culture and intelligence all play a role in economic success” yet seems to dispute the conclusions. The NYTimes is an advocate of Statist, that is, Big Government Socialist Welfare solutions to problems of economic well being and social pathologies and Charles Murray of a more Libertarian orientation thinks it is individual will and individual choices, decentralized, dispersed and independent, that determines results.

  A street in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Charles Murray’s symbol of white working-class malaise.

For some decades now, a popular conservative narrative of modern America has gone something like this: Our center-right nation, devout and industrious, is ruled by a politically liberal elite that disdains family, despises religion and celebrates indolence with government handouts. Many people find this story convincing. It helped fracture the postwar Democratic Party and midwifed the culture wars. Today it feeds the political frustrations of the Tea Party movement.

Charles Murray, the influential conservative scholar and provocateur, believes this story is wrong. In his new book, “Coming Apart,” Murray flips the script that has energized Republican politics and campaigns since Richard Nixon: the white working class, he argues, is no longer part of a virtuous silent majority. Instead, beginning in the early 1960s, it has become increasingly alienated from what Murray calls “the founding virtues” of civic life. “Our nation is coming apart at the seams,” Murray warns — “not ethnic seams, but the seams of class.”

 Illegitimacy, crime, joblessness — these are not merely the much debated pathologies of a black underclass, Murray finds. They are white people problems too.

High-I.Q. Americans have come to dominate elite colleges. They tend to marry one another — “cognitive homogamy” — and produce children statistically more likely to be smart themselves. 

The problem, Murray argues, is not that members of the new upper class eat French cheese or vote for Barack Obama. It is that they have lost the confidence to preach what they practice, adopting instead a creed of “ecumenical niceness.” They work, marry and raise children, but they refuse to insist that the rest of the country do so, too. “The belief that being a good American involved behaving in certain kinds of ways, and that the nation itself relied upon a certain kind of people in order to succeed, had begun to fade and has not revived,” Murray writes.

READ MORE   Charles Murray Examines the White Working Class in ‘Coming Apart’ NYTimes NICHOLAS CONFESSORE February 10, 2012

Jared Bernstein of Huffington Post is likewise critical and, equally, confused by Charles Murray’s data and the conclusions Charles Murray draws from them.

In fact, I believe he’s focusing on a real but shrinking problem, and ignoring a much larger–and growing–one.

Here’s what I mean. The heart of the book focuses on whites, 30-49. In order to be able to compare the fortunes of a working class group with an upper-middle class group, he divides a subset of the population into two groups, based on a set of occupations and education. The working class group works in “blue collar, service, or low-level white collar occupation[s]” and has no more than a high school degree. The members of the upper-middle group all have at least a BA and are “managers, physicians, attorneys, engineers, architects, scientists, college faculty members, or in content-production jobs in the media.”

Even more importantly, you don’t learn why. There is no serious discussion in Coming Apart about factors outside of the individuals’ scope of influence responsible for the problems we face. As you’d expect from Murray, there’s considerable discussion of personal failings, framed in this discussion of the loss of industriousness, religiosity, marriage, and honesty.   READ MORE 28 February 2012 Jared Bernstein Huffington Post 








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