Coming Apart

  • by Charles Murray
  • Narrated by Traber Burns
  • 12 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, this startling long-lens view shows how America is coming apart at the seams that have historically joined our social 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—a 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. This 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.
Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He first came to national attention in 1984 with Losing Ground. 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.


What the Critics Say

“A timely investigation into a worsening class divide no one can afford to ignore.” (Publishers Weekly)
“[Charles Murray] argues for the need to focus on what has made the US exceptional beyond its wealth and military power… religion, marriage, industriousness, and morality.” (Booklist)
“This is an immensely important and utterly gripping book…Coming Apart is a model of rigorous sociological inquiry, yet it is also highly readable. After the chronic incoherence of Occupy Wall Street, it comes as a blessed relief. Every American should read it. Too bad only the cognitive elite will.” (Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard and fellow of the Hoover Institution)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Brilliant & Flawed

The format of "Coming Apart" is awkward for an audiobook because of the many references to graphs and tables. There's an accompanying PDF of these with the audiobook. I found that by reading the PDF before listening to the audiobook, I was able to following the reading fairly easily.


There are plenty of professional journalists who have written extensive reviews and commentaries on "Coming Apart." For a particularly good one, see "Is the White Working Class Coming Apart?" by David Frum, or the review in the Wall Street Journal. These may be more useful than reviews given here.

"Coming Apart" has two basic sections: a description of the situation followed by analysis and opinions.

The description of the situation is brilliant. Regardless of your political persuasion, the description will probably strike you as being largely accurate about the changes and problems in America's socio-economic class structure.

Following this brilliant presentation, Murray gives his views and analysis from a libertarian viewpoint. Murray's analysis is what's flawed. While Murray does a good job at identifying why the upper class has become richer and larger, and why the children of the upper class are much more likely to remain in the upper class than they would have been prior to 1960, Murray's attempts to explain why the lower class has grown and is sociologically falling apart doesn't hold together. For politically interested readers with moderate and liberal views, this analysis may be particularly interesting, as it is a serious attempt at sociology from a libertarian/conservative perspective, and may provide some insights about how your political opposites think.
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- Douglas C. Bates

Data-heavy for audio

Would you consider the audio edition of Coming Apart to be better than the print version?

This is a fantastic little bit of social science, but the author includes a lot of demographic data that can get confusing when in audio format. You'll lose some of the details by listening to it instead of reading it, but it will only matter if you're hoping to use the book as source material for research of your own. The narrator did what he could with it. Otherwise, well-performed and researched.

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- reader

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-16-2012
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.