Group Read: The Unwinding, by George Packer

Snak75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Group Read: The Unwinding, by George Packer

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1The_Hibernator
Redigeret: dec 20, 2016, 10:04 pm



Hi everyone! In Jan and Feb, a group of us are reading The Unwinding, by George Packer as the first book in The New York Times' list of "6 books to help understand Trump's win" challenge. This challenge is meant to stimulate discussion about the populism movement which led to Trump's win, and anyone, Trump supporter or not, is welcome to join in the discussion as long as it stays civil and educational. The other books in the challenge are:

March - April: STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

May - June: HILLBILLY ELEGY: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

July - August: LISTEN, LIBERAL: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank

September - October: THE POPULIST EXPLOSION: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John B. Judis

November - December: WHITE TRASH: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

2_Zoe_
dec 20, 2016, 8:42 pm

I'm planning to give this one a try! I figure I can at least start all of the books and hopefully finish at least some of them.

3kidzdoc
dec 20, 2016, 8:55 pm

I'm in! I'll probably read The Unwinding in February, after I finish Evicted in January.

4The_Hibernator
dec 20, 2016, 9:01 pm

I'm also leading a discussion on my blog, so I'll have to read The Unwinding in a paced manner throughout the two months. Which means I may not finish Evicted in a single month, but I'm sure people will still be willing to discuss it with me if I go a week or so over.

I've already started The Unwinding because I want to get the discussion questions ready for the first part. I'm liking it so far, though I'm not certain what I think of the format. It's not conducive to getting a thesis across very quickly. But it's certainly an interesting way of looking at things.

5drneutron
dec 20, 2016, 10:00 pm

I'm in!

6SqueakyChu
dec 20, 2016, 10:22 pm

I'm in for the time being, although I might later change my mind if I find it too overwhelming reading so much about politics on a day-to-day basis. I did start reading the book last week. Sadly it's a three-week loaner from my public library so I might have to read it in fits and starts.

7souloftherose
dec 21, 2016, 4:52 am

My local library has a copy of this so I'm in.

8maggie1944
dec 21, 2016, 6:43 am

I am in, will try to keep up although my reading speed has slowed recently, and sadly. The book is here on my shelf. I may pick it up soon.

A new year! A new outlook, perhaps.

9Crazymamie
dec 21, 2016, 8:27 am

What Zoe said - I'll give it a try.

10dallenbaugh
dec 21, 2016, 8:35 am

What others have said - I'll give it a try.

11katiekrug
dec 21, 2016, 1:10 pm

I received a copy of this for Christmas last year, so if I can find it (most of my books are still packed up from a move), I will try to start it in January, as well.

12Oberon
dec 21, 2016, 2:49 pm

Posting this here so that those interested can read it when they finish The Unwinding

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/31/hillary-clinton-and-the-populist-re...

Packer wrote this piece for the New Yorker shortly before the election. To me, it read very much like an update to The Unwinding. Thus my recommendation.

13drneutron
dec 21, 2016, 4:22 pm

That was a pretty interesting article. I was surprised that Clinton was more aware of the class issues before the election than I thought. I'm looking forward to The Unwnding more than ever.

14ffortsa
dec 21, 2016, 10:19 pm

I'll start The Unwinding as soon as Jim brings his copy in from his Queens man-cave. Looking forward to having company on this read.

15The_Hibernator
dec 22, 2016, 6:58 am

>12 Oberon: Thanks Erik! I'll come back to it after reading the book.

16katiekrug
dec 22, 2016, 10:22 am

I decided to just bite the bullet and bought a Kindle copy to read. Even if I found my paperback, I remember it being rather large so I think I'd prefer the Kindle version to carry around...

17EBT1002
dec 22, 2016, 12:22 pm

I'm in. I'll be going to the bookstore today to purchase my copy.

18markon
dec 24, 2016, 12:24 pm

Count me in! Looking forward to some discussion.

19maggie1944
dec 25, 2016, 6:32 am

I am 30 pages in and have concluded that this is likely just the kind of book I love. i really enjoy reading about how people came to be who they are today. I assume there is more to this book than a series of short biographies but so far I'm very willing to spend some good quality time reading this book!

Onwards to a new year! Best wishes to us all.

20inge87
dec 29, 2016, 6:49 pm

I started The Unwinding at the beginning of the month, but took a break to read the books I needed for finishing my Category Challenge. I'm not quite halfway through, and will hold off on the rest until January to read it with everyone else.

It will be interesting to see what people think of the format. I've found it reads more like a collection of connected essays than a single, unified story.

21carlym
dec 30, 2016, 8:54 am

If anyone has Scribd, The Unwinding is available there.

22SebastianBeach
dec 30, 2016, 9:20 am

Read it earlier in the year and as a resident of the UK I found it fascinating. It seemed to address issues that are not uncommon to many faced here but which didn't get much coverage in our media or at least didn't until the late stages of your Presidential election.

I'm intrigued to see the thoughts of others.

23PaulCranswick
dec 31, 2016, 1:19 am

I am in too. Found my copy in my Non-Ficiton Cupboard wrongly placed there by my maid yesterday. She is getting too clever by half because she was able to answer that "I thought you kept the Non-Fiction there?"

24hailelib
dec 31, 2016, 3:09 pm

I've got a copy from the library and hope to get to it sometime in January.

25dallenbaugh
dec 31, 2016, 7:03 pm

Yes, I'm in as well. Just received my copy from the library.

26tymfos
jan 1, 2017, 2:27 pm

I've ordered the book via ILL, and hopefully it will arrive in a timely manner.

27bymerechance
jan 1, 2017, 3:21 pm

I’m looking forward to these group reads. I’ve just read Listen, Liberal, since it happened to be the first book on the list that I could get my hands on at the library, so I’ll have to look for The Unwinding next. Although I do fear that taking my reading recommendations from the New York Times of all places isn’t quite the best way to understand the perspectives of people who disagree with me, it’s at least a start!

28The_Hibernator
jan 5, 2017, 6:01 pm

I just finished Part 1! Since I'm going to create discussion questions for my blog, I'll post them here first and see what people think. That'll probably be over the weekend. How is everyone else's reading going?

29ursula
jan 5, 2017, 6:04 pm

I am next in line to get it, so I should be able to start it before the end of January.

30SqueakyChu
Redigeret: jan 5, 2017, 10:26 pm

>28 The_Hibernator: I'm reading it slowly. I find that I have to take notes to keep the individuals straight since the chapters jump from person to person. I have a hard time following such an arrangement.

31maggie1944
jan 6, 2017, 11:07 am

I am about 2/3 of the way through part I. Fascinating to me. I'm having to balance reading a couple of books so I'll put off this one for a short time while I make progress through a sci-fi book I'm reading for a f2f book group.

32ffortsa
jan 6, 2017, 2:56 pm

I'm in possession of the book and plan to read this weekend, or maybe later today.

33tymfos
jan 6, 2017, 3:29 pm

My ILL copy has arrived and I've already started it.

34markon
Redigeret: jan 9, 2017, 5:14 pm

I have finished part I and started the next part. I have found it interesting to take the table of contents and jot down where I was/what I was doing in the years we're covering. I'm curious about how and why he chose this structure for the book.

>28 The_Hibernator: Looking forward to your questions.

>30 SqueakyChu: It does seem odd, doesn't it? And the stories are anecdotal, he doesn't seem to be making a case, so much as giving us some "slice of life" material.

35katiekrug
jan 9, 2017, 5:09 pm

>34 markon: - That's an interesting idea about the ToC. I might do it, too!

I just started the book last night, so I'm only about 30 pages in, but it's certainly very readable. I find his style engaging, and I liked the humor in the section on Gingrich.

36SqueakyChu
Redigeret: jan 9, 2017, 8:52 pm

>34 markon: I like your idea for marking down what I was doing in those years as well. It puts a better perspective on the passage of time that happens throughout this book.

I'm about a quarter of the way through the book now, but I'm a slow reader for this type of book (where the narrative jumps from one person to another). This is truly not my favorite kind of read. Oh, well.

37ffortsa
jan 9, 2017, 10:10 pm

I've finally started this book, reading through the 1978 section, and while the individual narratives are choice, I hope that where he is going with these profiles will bring us to a satisfying conclusion.

38mdoris
jan 10, 2017, 12:35 am

I started reading Unwinding on the weekend and was pleasantly surprised at the format. It was not what I was expecting at all, giving windows into peoples' lives. I must admit that I jumped around as I was curious about particular chapters (people), Carver, Oprah, Warren, Gingrich. This is probably not the way it's supposed to be read as the" times" will get confused. I realized that I had never read a Carver short story so found a collection close at hand and read one about "drying out" in a rehab place (maybe close to being autobiographical). Anyway must return to Unwinding when more time allows and read it sequentially. Bad me.

39The_Hibernator
Redigeret: jan 13, 2017, 8:09 am

Sorry it took me so long to post the promised questions. I have been kept busier than expected by work and my dad's health issues. These questions and answers involve the whole of the first part of The Unwinding.

40The_Hibernator
jan 13, 2017, 8:12 am

Question 1: Whose story was most moving / interesting to you?

Tammy Thomas's story was most moving to me because it reminded me of a book I read for my social justice book club: Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward. I had been wondering if Ward's experience with the deaths of blacks in the poorer class black community were unique. The implication was that it was not, but I'm a skeptic sometimes. Indeed, although there were fewer deaths involved in Thomas's story, it confirmed that deaths are a more common experience than I expected in this community. That, to me, is tragic.

The most interesting story was Oprah's. I guess I was never a fan of the Oprah Book Club because many selections are about miserable people being miserable, as Morphy would say. (Don't get me wrong, there are a few good ones in there.) However, this section was the only section where I could totally see Packer's point - that the pipe dreams encouraged by Oprah could bring people down.

41The_Hibernator
jan 13, 2017, 8:16 am

Question 2: What do you think his thesis is? Was it made clear in this section.

I have to admit that I don't know what his point is with any of the stories except the Tammy Thomas's, the Walmart one, and the Oprah one - that there are reasons (other than the obvious ones) that poorer people who are brought down by these circumstances. But I guess that's because I already expected this theme. In Jeff Connaughton's story I THINK the point is that lobbyists encourage corruption in Washington. The others, maybe that these successful people increase the poor / rich financial divide.

42The_Hibernator
jan 13, 2017, 8:19 am

Question 3: What do you think of the format of the book, where it is split into biographies instead of a straightforward narrative?

Personally, I'm skeptical that I will be able to see a strong thesis, though the reviews certainly imply that I am wrong. I would prefer a straightforward narrative because the people are hard to keep track of, though I think it's a very creative way to share a thesis (if that, indeed, is what happens in the end.)

43The_Hibernator
jan 13, 2017, 8:21 am

Question 4: So far, a lot of the narrative about successful people. Does this surprise you?

As I said in my answer to question 2, I expected stories about down-trodden people who want to make America great again.

44katiekrug
jan 13, 2017, 9:18 am

I'm not far enough along to answer the questions yet, but I actually like the different profiles, at least as far as keeping things moving goes. I will withhold judgment on whether the style lends itself to developing a strong thesis or not... I have two books to read for RL book clubs, and then I will return to this one.

Thanks, Rachel, for the questions! I will keep them in mind as I read further.

45dallenbaugh
jan 13, 2017, 9:56 am

I'm not sure he is trying for a strong thesis other than showing how America has changed so that individuals can no longer follow the rules of the past, but have to make up their lives as they go trying to read the signs of change as best they can but with some people, through luck or better choices or better opportunities, having much more success than others.

Although it is hard to follow the various profiles at times I like the format since this could be a very dry book discussing all the ways the U.S. has changed without personalizing it in some way, and it allows us to see people at all levels of income and backgrounds grappling with this new world. Yes, there are many successful profiles, but really the decisions they make when they are at the top of their fields are what most affect the country whether it be in the financial, political or retail fields.

46markon
Redigeret: jan 14, 2017, 12:47 pm

Thanks for the questions, hope to respond more in a few days.

47dchaikin
jan 14, 2017, 2:20 pm

I have been listening to this and decided to hop over and join the discussion. I'm really pleased to be here and take part of this group.

I'm in 1994.

I'm hoping he adds a clear thesis at some point. The introduction was vague. The individual biographies are interesting and often insightful far beyond their subject, but I'm having trouble putting it all together coherently. I would just be waving my hands to pin a theme down now.

48dchaikin
jan 14, 2017, 2:49 pm

Rachel - I like these questions, but I have odd problem. As I'm on audio and don't have a table of contents, I have no idea where the first section ends/ended.

49SqueakyChu
jan 14, 2017, 3:59 pm

I don't think I am going to finish this book. I find this book very depressing, and I need lighter fare since the repeal of ObamaCare is going to knock our family for a loop. Once I stop freaking out, I will come back to lurk and read what others think about it, but following the day-to-day news has become too overwhelming to me itself. My pleasure reading has got to remove me from this.

50dchaikin
jan 14, 2017, 4:07 pm

>49 SqueakyChu: Sorry M! I'm struggling with this time too. : ( I think a lot of us are.

For me, this book is part of my way of dealing but it weighs heavier on my state of mind now.

51SqueakyChu
jan 14, 2017, 5:19 pm

>50 dchaikin: That was why I wanted to participate, but I realize now that it only reinforces my fears.

52inge87
Redigeret: jan 14, 2017, 7:25 pm

>48 dchaikin: Part I ends with the fourth Jeff Connaughton story (the one after 2003). Part II starts with Dean Price and then Alice Walters (the famous restaurateur) and ends with the second Tampa segment (the one after 2008). Part III starts with another Jeff Connaughton segment and then 2010.

>49 SqueakyChu: I totally understand, it's not very uplifting reading. I'm not sure Strangers in Their Own Land will be much better (but at least it will have some kind of narrative structure!). On the other hand, Hillbilly Elegy is a great read about the author sorting out his life and moving beyond the circumstances he was born into, and Populist Explosion (the September book) is an excellent short history of the Populist movement in the US and Europe from the 1800s to summer 2016 and doesn't have enough space to go into gory detail at all. So maybe you'll be able to participate better later, even if you need to step away right now.

As for myself, I'm not loving this one. I've set it aside for other things right now, and then, once I do finish it, my copy (that I bought used for cheap back in November) will either become part of my politically-minded sister's birthday gift or sold to Half-Price Books. Unless it suddenly becomes more compelling than it is right now, but somehow I don't see that happening.

53dchaikin
jan 14, 2017, 7:19 pm

>52 inge87: thank you!

54The_Hibernator
jan 14, 2017, 7:26 pm

>49 SqueakyChu: No worries. I know this is a stressful topic.

>48 dchaikin: I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy this book in audio format because it would be difficult to follow various biographies. But I might just be particularly bad at such things.

55EBT1002
Redigeret: jan 14, 2017, 7:31 pm

Thanks for posting questions, Rachel. I plan to start reading in the next couple of days and they may help me focus.
And I like the idea of making notes about where I was, what I was doing at points in time.

>49 SqueakyChu: Totally understandable. I know several people who are going to be devastated by the repeal of Obamacare. I don't understand why our journalists aren't finding those stories and publishing them. There was a story about a family whose ACA-related costs have gone up in the past couple of years, but the comment at the end "before Obamacare, they had NO health insurance" was like a footnote. Grr.

56katiekrug
jan 14, 2017, 8:20 pm

>48 dchaikin: - Hey Dan! Good to see you over here. For future reference, I often use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature - if you look up the paperback version of the book, you can view the Table of Contents - it might help orient you that way.

57dchaikin
jan 14, 2017, 9:28 pm

Hey Katie! Thanks!

58SqueakyChu
jan 14, 2017, 10:16 pm

>52 inge87:. Thank you, Inge. I'll consider it as the year progresses.

59maggie1944
Redigeret: jan 15, 2017, 8:31 am

I am back into The Unwinding and I think the overarching theme is "American has changed, folks, and here are the dimensions of a new America". Maybe I'm not far enough into the book to be sure this is it, but this is my initial thought.

I just bumped into a paragraph which, for me, summarizes so much of what has happened.

"And it was only after his death, after Wal-Mart's down-home founder was no longer its public face, that the country began to understand what his company had done. Over the years, America had become more like Wal-Mart. It had gotten cheap. Prices were lower, and wages were lower. There were fewer union factory jobs, and more part-time jobs as store greeters. The small towns where Mr. Sam had seen his opportunity were getting poorer, which meant the consumers there depended more and more on everyday low prices, and made every last purchase at Wal-Mart, and maybe had to work there, too. The hollowing out of the heartland was good for the company's bottom line. And in parts of the country which were getting richer, on the coasts and in some big cities, many consumers regarded Wal-Mart and its vast aisles filled with crappy, if not dangerous, Chinese made goods with horror, and instead purchased their shoes and meat in expensive boutiques as if overpaying might inoculate them against the spread of cheapness, while store's like Macy's, the bastions of a former middle-class economy, faded out, and America began to look once more began to look like the country Mr. Sam had grown up in."

Here we have, in my mind, a violent clash between The Myth of American, the Special, and the reality of inadequately controlled capitalistic greed.

OK, back to reading the book, and plotting my next step in organizing my little community of retired folks to go protest and march the day after the Inauguration of our current "leader of the free world".

60EBT1002
Redigeret: jan 17, 2017, 12:00 am

^ That paragraph is breathtaking in its scope and its ring of accuracy. Thanks for posting.

61maggie1944
jan 17, 2017, 7:47 am

Ellen, you are very welcome

62dchaikin
Redigeret: jan 17, 2017, 1:40 pm

I'm in the 1999 section.

I have an issue that I may just need some patience to let it resolve itself. I know Packer's main point and I agree with the quote in >59 maggie1944:. But, I'm not entirely sure that the stories add up to a point—or make Packer's point.

For example, the paragraph in above is made without any supporting data or story. He talks about Walton and suddenly concludes walmart helped create small town wasteland. One doesn't explain the other. I mean we all know there's a connection, but he doesn't elaborate on it, he just goes Walton to wasteland with nothing in between to clarify how one leads to the other.

It seems a selective history that may or may not reflect the bigger themes in history. I mean, it's not clear why some things are included and what their role is; and more significantly, why other things aren't included.

63markon
Redigeret: jan 17, 2017, 5:18 pm

>40 The_Hibernator: Tammy Thomas's story was most moving to me because it reminded me of a book I read for my social justice book club: Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward. I had been wondering if Ward's experience with the deaths of blacks in the poorer class black community were unique. The implication was that it was not, but I'm a skeptic sometimes.

I looked up some online stats on death rates by age and ethnicity to see how big the difference is, and it's significant.

Death among males age 12-19, May 2010 (Table 3)
African American 94/100K
Hispanic 68/100k
White 62/100K

And in 2013 the leading causes of death are different as well. Wish I knew how to put a table in here, but the #1 cause of death for African American males age 15-19 is homicide (47.8%). This remains the leading cause of death until age 35, at which age cancer and heart disease start to kick in.

For Hispanic & white males ages 15-19 the leading cause of death is unintentional injuries (primarily car accidents). (39.5% for Hispanices, 43.7% for whites.)

I'm sure income makes a difference as well, but I haven't taken the time to look that up.

ETAdd:
Having trouble getting the 2nd link to work! It is https://www.cdc.gov/men/lcod/2013/ , then look in the upper right for links to tables for each ethnicity.

64markon
jan 18, 2017, 12:41 pm

Packer doesn’t provide a clearly stated thesis. Nor does he present a straightforward argument. Rather, he tells stories, and the choice of stories he tells and the way Packer organizes them infer something about what he thinks the situation is. I’m suspicious that he’s pulling emotional strings with the stories, rather than making a logical argument. And while emotions have their place, they don’t replace logic. I don’t like this. We don’t need someone stirring up the emotional stewpot – I think many of us are already overwrought about the status of the economy and governance.

>45 dallenbaugh: America has changed so that individuals can no longer follow the rules of the past, but have to make up their lives as they go trying to read the signs of change as best they can but with some people, through luck or better choices or better opportunities, having much more success than others.

I nominate the above as the thesis, though Packer never states it.

The story that most appeals to me is that of Tammy Thompson. I can identify with her loyalty to her family and her community. I’m also intrigued (& puzzled) by the way Packer paints the three nationally known figures I’ve read about so far: Gingrich, Oprah, and Raymond Carver. It seems to me he holds them up as models not to follow (Gingrich & Oprah), and Carver as one who sees (and writes) clearly about what he observes, no matter what the consequences and rewards are.

I think Price, Connaughton & Thompson are our “everyman” to follow throughout the book. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to regard the well-known figures like Newt Gingrich, Sam Walton, Oprah, etc. Are they examples to follow? (Clearly not from some of the descriptions.) Warning signs? Examples of what’s wrong? I don’t get it. Anyone else have some insight?

Question 4: So far, a lot of the narrative is about successful people. Does this surprise you?

Hm. I’ve gotta ask, what do you mean by successful? I know it’s not the same as happy, but I wouldn’t want Dean Price’s or Jeff Connaughton’s life, at least not at the point I’ve reached. They’re financially stable, but Price has had to move far away from his kids, and Connaughton is disillusioned and not happy in his work. So far, Tammy is successful in that she gets her kids through school and provides a stable environment, like her grandmother did for her. But she’s struggling financially.

>43 The_Hibernator: I expected stories about down-trodden people who want to make America great again.

Just realized my assumption was he would be writing about "ordinary people" and their struggles. I think the down trodden in this economy are all of us (some of us are hurting more than others, but I think everyones finances and expectations have been affected, with the possible exception of the wealthy.) We have differing opinions on what will make our economy (and by this I think we mean our individual financial situations) better. There may be patterns about how these solutions fall among various groups (race, class, education level, income lines, geographic location, etc.)

65dchaikin
jan 18, 2017, 9:49 pm

>64 markon: interesting post. I feel the same as what you write in your first paragraph.

66dchaikin
jan 18, 2017, 9:55 pm

Part I questions

Question 1: Whose story was most moving / interesting to you?

Most interesting to me were the ones that gave insight into the Clinton years. It was interesting to think about whether Clinton really did work Gingrich over. And then there was the chaos Connaughton found. Most moving for me was possibly Oprah Winfrey. I wasn't aware that she had it so rough. (Although apparently she exaggerates it)

67dchaikin
jan 18, 2017, 10:01 pm

Question 2: What do you think his thesis is? Was it made clear in this section.

He's documenting the end of a stable era. But he's confusing the issue by highlighting a selection of people really worked over or really involved in the changes and ignoring less interesting people. History isn't all interesting stories. It needs boring data too. So far I have issues.

68dchaikin
jan 18, 2017, 10:02 pm

Question 3: What do you think of the format of the book, where it is split into biographies instead of a straightforward narrative?

I'm mixed. I like the stories, but I'm struggling without the thematical narrative.

69dchaikin
jan 18, 2017, 10:13 pm

Question 4: So far, a lot of the narrative about successful people. Does this surprise you?

To be surprised I would have had to have some expectations. I didn't, so no. The structure was confusing at first, but the selection of people seems to have some consistency. He's interested in people who are newsworthy in 2013, so they must have had some success in some kind of manner at some point.

70streamsong
jan 19, 2017, 12:04 pm

>62 dchaikin: "For example, the paragraph in above is made without any supporting data or story. He talks about Walton and suddenly concludes walmart helped create small town wasteland. One doesn't explain the other. I mean we all know there's a connection, but he doesn't elaborate on it, he just goes Walton to wasteland with nothing in between to clarify how one leads to the other.


There are references in the back of the book.

71dchaikin
Redigeret: jan 19, 2017, 12:42 pm

>70 streamsong: audiobook problem. References are ignored on audio...But, of course, references aren't the same as an explanation.

72dallenbaugh
jan 19, 2017, 4:36 pm

>62 dchaikin: I always thought the fact that big box stores of any kind, Walmart, Home Depot, strip malls, etc, can offer more selection at lower prices would almost always lead to the fact that Mom & Pop type small stores can no longer compete. Big box stores need lots of room so they are located on the edge or just outside of town leading people away from the downtown areas. Maybe it would have been more accurate to say these large stores usually led to the stagnation or elimination of the downtown stores that were most often situated at the heart of these towns,.

Question 3: What do you think of the format of the book, where it is split into biographies instead of a straightforward narrative?

I liked the format although it did make following the stories more difficult. I thought it was a good way to show how the changes in the U.S. actually affected real people, making it more emotional, yes, but also making it more real, at least to me.

This was not an easy book to read. So much greed, so many poor decisions that if we started pointing the finger at what went wrong and whose fault it was where would we start? I think that was part of the theme of the book towards the end, the fact that so many people started to listen to only one side of the blame game, through their chosen media gurus. There was no longer a dialogue between different camps thus polarizing people into groups with radically different ideas on how to fix the problems.

It was the Tampa case that most affected me. Talk about falling into an existential world where all the finger pointing goes around in circles, and most of the time no one even shows up or returns calls to let you know what is happening or how you can begin to solve your problems.

I am not quite finished with the book but so far it has not left me with a hopeful view of where the U.S. might be heading.

73dchaikin
jan 19, 2017, 8:18 pm

>72 dallenbaugh: Dallenbaugh - Oh, I totally agree with you. I'm not arguing the point, just questioning whether the book really makes that point, or simply states it. With this kind of book it's not always clear that the case is made. And...actually, that last sentence is only real point I meant to make.

---

I'm listening on library CD's and they aren't in good shape. I missed most of the skewing of Robert Rubin. Will need to hunt down a text to look it up.

74dallenbaugh
jan 20, 2017, 8:45 pm

I finished The Unwinding today, appropriately timed to coincide with the U.S. inauguration of our 45th President.

75Kristelh
Redigeret: jan 21, 2017, 6:04 pm

I've completed part 1. I was born before 1960. Really not sure why the author used that cut off. He must want to only reflect on certain generations attitude. A lot and I mean a lot has changed in my life.

1. Most compelling story is Tammy Thomas but I rally enjoyed them all and especially Oprah Winfrey but it is a nice back and forth between your basic person trying to make a living and the more well known people like Newt Gingrich, Oprah, Sam Walton and Colin Powell.

2. I also do not think there is a real thesis here. It is a snap shot of history and change in the US and how that change is effecting people but change is not new and has been going on for years. We all experience it. Politics go back and forth. It's a part of the checks and balances built into the system. The book has been compared to Dos Passos, U.S.A, (A novel published in 1938).

3. I think it is an interesting format. I like the idea of thinking about what I was doing during this time as suggested above. In 1978, I was working as a RN and my children were 1 and 3. In 1984, I was divorcing and moving to a new area and finding a new job that would make it possible to care for my children. In 1987, The children had gone to live with their dad in 1985 and returned about that time. In 1994, I had graduated with a Masters and an advanced degree in psychiatric nursing and was working with mentally ill people as they left state hospitals to live in the communities. In 1999 I remarried. My children were launched in their careers. In 2003, still working in my career but now working in a hospital based program with children and adolescents and an outpatient clinic. I've lived in rural parts all of my life. I remember Reagan during those years as the reason for state hospitals closing and I also remember inflation, lines for gas, gas prices rising from 35 cents, smaller cars.

4. Successful people... in many ways I think this is another story promoting the American Dream. If you try hard enough you can succeed. You have Dean Price with his entrapeneur, Oprah and her rise to richest woman, Sam Walton and his box stores.

I expect more will develop as we go.

76Kristelh
Redigeret: jan 21, 2017, 8:52 pm

I started part II and just have to put this quote here as it is so true:
From page 176, "Some nights he sat up late on his front porch with a glass of Jack and listened to the trucks heading south on 220, carrying crates of live chickens to the slaughterhouses--always under cover of darkness, like a vast shameful trafficking--chickens pumped full of hormones that left them too big to walk--and he thought how these same chickens might return from their destination as pieces of meat to the floodlit Bojangles' up the hill from his house, and that meat would be drowned in the bubbling fryers by employees whose hatred of the job would leak into the cooked food, and that food would be served up and eaten by customers who would grow obese and end up in the hospital in Greensboro with diabetes or heart failure, a burden to the public, and later Dean would see them riding around the Mayodan Wal-Mart in electric carts because they were too heavy to walk the aisles of a Supercenter, just like hormone-fed chickens.

77dchaikin
jan 21, 2017, 7:32 pm

>76 Kristelh: that quote stuck with me too.

78AnneDC
jan 21, 2017, 11:13 pm

>76 Kristelh: I just read that section this afternoon and it definitely struck a chord.

79streamsong
Redigeret: jan 22, 2017, 11:49 am

>71 dchaikin: Ah. I don't think I'd like this one on audio. Besides the lack of references, how is it working for you? The reference you may be interested in is "Bob Ortega, 'In Sam We Trust: The Untold Story of Sam Walton and how Wal-Mart is devouring America' (New York: Crown Business, 1998)"

I've finished the first section.

1: Whose story was most moving / interesting to you?
- Newt Gingrich. I see him as a Trump proto-type.
- Sam Walton for changing the face of the way America purchases. And now, it's changed again to online purchases which are devastating even the Wal-Marts.
- Joe Biden. I hadn't followed his political career and most of what I know about his Vice-Presidancy is that he and Obama are besties. He comes across as quite manipulative in this biographical sketch.
- Raymond Carver - I'm always interested in writers, and haven't read anything by him. I've now read half a dozen of his poems that were posted online and will continue reading more. He documents the bleakness of what he sees; perhaps the victims of some of the above?

Question 2: What do you think his thesis is? Was it made clear in this section?
- It appears to be that people who have really changed how things are done, often disregard the consequences to other people in order to further their own success.

The biggest exception to the above is Tammy Thomas. In her, we see the consequences of the forces enacted on her.

Question 3: What do you think of the format of the book, where it is split into biographies instead of a straightforward narrative?
- Having worked in research science, I'm always a bit skeptical of anecdotal evidence. The format does make it wonderfully readable, though.

Question 4: So far, a lot of the narrative is about successful people. Does this surprise you?
- Unfortunately, the more success, the more impact they have on the world. An unpleasant Newt Gingrich who didn't move beyond local politics would have stayed contained within his sphere.

80dchaikin
jan 22, 2017, 4:31 pm

>79 streamsong: interesting answers. I'm fine with the audio, except when the CD's are damaged. ( I have a text version now to fill in gaps. ). It's not confusing. The stories jump around, but the individual narratives are very straight forward. The reader does a good job.

81jennyifer24
jan 22, 2017, 6:30 pm

Although the format can be confusing sometimes, I like how this book pieces together different parts of America in one time frame. I think Tammy Thomas’s story is especially interesting and I think I was also most impressed with her success. She grew up in a situation that many would not have succeeded in. She raised healthy, successful children while working an inconsistent schedule and cared for her grandmother without a lot of support. She also kept steady employment in an uninteresting job in an industry that suffered.

I thought Connaughton’s story was interesting for the insight into Washington politics. How the connections are made, how your connections reappear over time, how your past comes back (for better or worse).

An underlying thread to me was the humanity in each person; Oprah gives away vacations and cars and also strictly controls access and how she is portrayed. Sam Walton values honesty but puts up Made in America signs over foreign goods and minimizes his donations when the scholarships he offers offer him a large pr payout. His six children are richer than the bottom 30% of Americans (!!!!) but (because?) he buys as cheaply as he can (capitalism at its best...or worst?). Raymond Carver writes the stories of everyday Americans and struggles with common vices like smoking, drinking and infidelity. We are an imperfect nation of people who have achieved amazing successes while suffering devastating losses, and in some cases, inflicting great harm on others. Decisions that affect thousands of people really can come down to just a few.

Edited- just finished part I with Connaughton. This last chapter about him was not fun. Hard to read about people who are supposed serving citizens but are really accumulating wealth and power however they can.

I have the audiobook and the paper book from my library (no one’s requested when I renewed so I’m feeling okay about hogging them both :-) ). It’s nice to have the “real” book to go back and reread but I’ve enjoyed listening to it too.

82weird_O
jan 22, 2017, 6:59 pm

I read The Unwinding during the summer of 2013, when it was first published. Now that I've read through this thread, I'm going to take the book from the shelf and skim through it again. Many of the names are familiar, and I can connect most of them to stories. But my recall of the book's full thread has gaps.

I do believe that Packer is presenting his reportage for readers to interpret as they may. I don't think he's got a specific thesis or message.

83drneutron
jan 22, 2017, 10:38 pm

I'm up to pg 88, so mid-90s, I think. My first thought is that this isn't what I expected. I like the stories he's telling, but I don't yet get what he's trying to tell us in a broader sense. And I'm starting to get interested in the idea of a "social contract" - where it came from, whether it was ever a valid idea.

In some ways, the people I'm reading about seem like people from other times in our history - the late 19th century, for instance, was another era of great disparity in wealth and power. Not that it lessens the effect of what's happening in our country now.

Sorry for the randomness of my thoughts right now. I think I'm still processing what I've read. :)

84Kristelh
Redigeret: jan 23, 2017, 7:27 am

I completed part II and into Part III now. What seems to be coming out for me is the stuff on the Banking industry. It reminds me a bit of The Big Short. Anyway, government is pretty screwed up no matter where your ideologies lie.

85maggie1944
jan 23, 2017, 8:48 am

Due to size, and challenge, I've picked up Hamilton to read for my February meeting of the f2f book group I am in, and love. Sorry. But I did want to say that the story of Hamilton's life and how he happened to become a part of the American Revolution against Great Britain is illuminating. The "American Dream" has its roots deeply imbedded in the American rebels' life stories, as varied and as interesting as those in The Unwinding. Food for thought.....

86ffortsa
Redigeret: jan 23, 2017, 10:43 am

I'm a bit behind with this reading, just got up to 1987. But the last paragraph or so of the first Oprah story really caught me, because of my parallel reading of Erewhon. In that satire, people who get sick or suffer other misfortunes are considered culpable and often sentenced to death. Here's the paragraph that caught my interest:

1984 – Oprah
“Her most ardent supporters remained the aging lower-middle-class women from Rockford and Eau Claire who lined up for hours outside Harpo Studios on the Near West Side.

They had things that she didn’t – children, debts, spare time. They consumed the products that she advertised but would never buy– Maybelline, Jenny Craig, Little Caesar’s, IKEA. As their financial troubles grew, she would thrill them by selecting one of them and wiping out her debts on the air or buying her a house, or ramping up Oprah’s Favorite Things at Christmas to give away luxury items like diamond watches and Tory Burch gray flannel totes. But being instructed in Oprah’s magical thinking (vaccinations cause autism; positive thoughts lead to wealth, love and success), and watching Oprah always doing more, owning more, not all her viewers began to live their best life. They didn’t have nine houses, or maybe any house; they couldn’t call John Travolta their friend; the laws of the universe left them vulnerable to mugging; they were not always attuned to their divine self; they were never all that they could be. And since there was no random suffering in life, Oprah left them with no excuse.”


Bold emphasis mine.

87drneutron
jan 23, 2017, 11:12 am

Yup, I read that and it just made me sad.

88Oberon
Redigeret: jan 23, 2017, 3:45 pm

The term “cosmopolitan élites” is used to describe Americans who are at home in the fluid world of transnational corporations, dual citizenship, blended identities, and multicultural education. Such people dominate our universities, tech companies, publishers, nonprofits, entertainment studios, and news media. They congregate in cities and on the coasts. Lately, they have become particularly obsessed with the food they eat. The locavore movement, whatever its benefits to health and agriculture, is an inward-looking form of activism. When you visit a farm-to-table restaurant and order the wild-nettle sformato for thirty dollars, the line between social consciousness and self-gratification disappears. Buying synthetic-nitrate-free lunch meat at Whole Foods is also a way to isolate yourself from contamination by the packaged food sold at Kmart and from the overweight, downwardly mobile people who shop there. The people who buy food at Kmart know it.

This paragraph, especially the last line, summed up a lot of The Unwinding for me. The fortunes of many Americans have diverged radically and the ones that are "losing" are aware of it and resent it.

*the quote is from the New Yorker article I mentioned in >12 Oberon: and not the book itself but I really feel like that article works as a summary to a lot of The Unwinding.

89katiekrug
jan 23, 2017, 5:27 pm

>86 ffortsa: - This reminds me of the "Gospel of Prosperity" which is a branch of modern evangelicalism that basically says God will reward you if you are faithful enough. Why, just look at the pastor with the mansion and nice car! So thousands of people give money to hear this gospel preached and try to be good and faithful, and when they still struggle to pay their mortgage, what are they supposed to think? It makes me so angry and so very sad.

90ffortsa
jan 23, 2017, 5:40 pm

>89 katiekrug: Yes, it is, imo, a misapplication of Calvinist theology, but it's so much easier to blame the victim than the system, or yourself, isn't it?

I just finished the first section on Thiel. Quite a character.

91ffortsa
jan 24, 2017, 1:02 pm

I've just finished the section on Tampa, and it was like watching a movie in which I was an extra.

The company I was working for was central to the control and recording of stock and bond investment, and had been ordered to diversify locations outside the northeastern power grid. One of the locations they picked was New Tampa, and they started soliciting volunteers for relocation. Jim and I went down to have a look, not because we wanted to leave New York, but because we thought one or both of us might have to, to keep our jobs. The description Packer gives, of mile after mile of tract house communities with clubhouse and pool, was exactly what we found. No center of activity, except for the many small churches. Shopping in strip malls on the highway. We asked the realtor who showed us around where we might find a bookstore, and he honestly didn't know. He's never seen one.

The company touted a lower cost of living, but for city folks like us, the costs of a car, fuel, and house upkeep would have been new, and property taxes were significant. We wandered through the nearest supermarket comparing prices - no joy there.

We had the perfect excuse to decline the offer of transfer, since Jim can't see well enough to drive, and there isn't any other way to get around. We were relieved to keep our jobs up here.

People who intended to retire there anyway grabbed the offers, along with people with large families who could buy bigger houses, people who hated their commutes, people who wanted out of all these blue states.

And then,working in that company, we were privileged to witness the demise of Lehman Brothers, from the inside. Our employer was the one responsible for unwinding all Lehman's holdings and trades. It was a point of great pride that we didn't lose money, call on our members for funding, and that our systems worked as they should. But I was working late one night during the crisis, and a woman from finance had commandeered the cubicle across the wall from me, and was issuing orders on the phone. Keep a billion - no, make that two billion - out of the repo market tonight - we might need it for Lehman. And I thought, that was billion with a 'b'.

Probably TMI. But it all came back to me from Packer's book. I'm enjoying the writing immensely, the details, the close observation of each individual person and now the close observation of the areas most affected. What happens to the individual people, even the ones who seem arrogant, is something I can sympathize with, and in some cases mourn for.

92withawhy99
jan 25, 2017, 8:16 pm

I found the book fascinating. Posted my review here:

https://emeraldcitybookreview.com/2017/01/trying-to-understand-part-1.html

93Kristelh
jan 25, 2017, 8:50 pm

I finished the book, will be trying to put together my review soon.

94ffortsa
jan 25, 2017, 9:57 pm

>92 withawhy99: That's a great review.

I'm in the group read for the bible as literature as well, and a side book I just finished is The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong. Toward the end of it, she comments on the Scopes trial, and how it hardened the position of American Protestant fundamentalism to espouse a more and more literal interpretation of creation, and the rest of the religious text. Given the nature of much of our current polarization, I wonder if we can trace our current entrenched and mutually deaf positions back that far.

95withawhy99
jan 27, 2017, 1:32 pm

>94 ffortsa:
Thank you ffortsa. I think our current situation has roots that go way, way back, sometimes back to the first European settlement here. Can we finally see some real and lasting change on some of these entrenched issues? I think it depends on how thoroughly we are able to look at the painful reality.

96dchaikin
jan 28, 2017, 11:37 am

Finished part 2 and I'm somewhat near the end. If the book ended now I would say it's about how all the money went to wallstreet and there is nothing anyone is doing about it.

It's interesting to me that Clinton gets hammered for disorganization and financial deregulation. Obama gets hammered for not doing anything to correct the financial problems that led to 2008. And W barely gets a look, like that administration didn't exist.

Thiel is an ass, a very savvy and wealthy ass, but still an ass.

97bkinetic
jan 28, 2017, 10:33 pm

Thanks Hibernator for suggesting The Unwinding, which I finished today. There are many excellent books that trace the ongoing decline of the American Dream, but this one draws its considerable power by examining the effects on several individual lives, each rendered in vivid detail. Biographies of leading politicians and corporate leaders are popular standard fare, but they don't provide nearly the insights into what has gone wrong as these biographies do.

98drneutron
feb 1, 2017, 1:23 pm

Thoughts as posted on my thread:

The Unwinding by George Packer

In The Unwinding, written well before the recent election cycle, George Packer gives a history of the changes in America from the 1970's through about 2013. His approach is to focus on a small number of people that somehow, I think, represent a cross-section of America through these events. Or at least I think so, since he doesn't offer a thesis or a sense of what he's trying to say through these people. And maybe he's not trying to say anything in particular - instead offering these portraits up as a substrate for readers to think about things and draw their own conclusions.

If anything, two things shine as themes: anger and accommodation. Anger at the corporations that slowly destroyed Youngstown, Ohio, through closing factories and moving them offshore. Anger at a politician that offers a hopeful, helpful public face while in reality using those who struggle to make him successful. Anger at how life screws with the small businessman with big ideas. Using that anger to turn from factory worker to community organizer. Using that anger to get out of politics and find some peace in life. And so on.

Packer's writing brings these individuals and their circumstances into crystal-clear focus. We can talk all we want about the foreclosure crisis, but seeing it through the eyes of someone as they live it brings it home in a whole new way. This is not a happy book, but it is an essential book for trying to understand how we got to January 2017. My only criticism, I think, is that Packer doesn't weigh the effect of bad or risky decisions on lives nearly as much as he should. Despite this, it's quite the read.

99dchaikin
Redigeret: feb 4, 2017, 6:55 pm

>98 drneutron: enjoyed your post Dr.

My own review is just now on the book page and also my club read thread (HERE). I'm not sure it adds much to what I have already kind of mentioned here.

One thing I want to add is that Packer has made me a champion of Elizabeth Warren. That's my one positive take away.

100dchaikin
feb 4, 2017, 7:08 pm

more on Peter Thiel:

He thinks computer technology has advanced so fast because of the lack of regulation. I'm convinced that is complete and utter BS. More, I think it's self-enhancing, on his part, BS. He just doesn't want to be restricted. Computer networking technology is what has advanced so fast, and it's only done this because its wide use is brand new and still in the phase where it can be constantly redefined. It's not well regulated because the regulation hasn't caught up.

Also, I think we need the regulation or the harmful aspects of networking will become worse. If our accounts aren't secure, if hackers are allowed to get into our personal information as they like and take over our identities as their conscience allows, without consequence or restriction, a lot of stuff and a lot of people gets screwed. The loss of net-neutrality under DT, as another example, is going to effect us all in a negative way. That's deregulation.

Sorry for being so blunt about how I feel, spouting my, perhaps, overconfidence. I've been turning this over in my mind for a while.

101ffortsa
feb 6, 2017, 9:43 am

>100 dchaikin: and just to make sure he has his own escape hatch, ThI'll is now a citizen of New Zealand, under special dispensaction acquired through his investments and, I suppose the hope that he will move the expanding forces of technology there from Silicon Valley.

102EBT1002
Redigeret: feb 6, 2017, 7:30 pm

>92 withawhy99: Your review is excellent. Thank you for posting the link. I'm still only halfway through Part I but I'm enjoying the stories and feel, like you, that I am getting a bit of a history lesson that I should perhaps have had all along (had I cared to pay closer attention ~~ complacence was my hubris).

If I may quote you,
"The Unwinding was all the more fascinating to me because it covers pretty much exactly the span of my own life. During this time boredom and disillusionment have caused me to avoid politics and economics as much as possible, with the result that I’m massively ignorant in these realms. It’s embarrassing to admit how many people and events in this book I knew next to nothing about, but Packer’s storytelling method made learning about them effortless."

That is exactly how I feel. I was born in 1960 so his choice of that year may have been arbitrary but it's also giving me an easy framework to wrap around the stories. ("Let's see, where was I in 1977? How about 1983?")

103withawhy99
feb 6, 2017, 9:20 pm

>100 dchaikin:
Thiel is scary. I knew nothing about him before reading this book. He needs watching.

>102 EBT1002:
Thank you. I am thinking a lot lately about my generation, the so-called "Generation X," and how we grew up during the seemingly prosperous time of the 90s and didn't do the protesting and fighting of earlier generations. (This is a generalization of course, but as an overall phenomenon I think it's fair to say.) Well, we're seeing the results now.

104katiekrug
feb 7, 2017, 10:06 am

I finished a few days ago and am so glad I read it. I gave it 4.5 stars. My review:

The Unwinding is a big and sprawling but oddly intimate look at the changing nature of the American economy over the past 40 years or so. It’s not an economic text; Packer writes about ordinary – and not-so-ordinary people – using their stories as examples of how things have changed, whether it’s the collapse of industrial jobs in Ohio, the disaster of the housing market in Florida, or the slow chipping away at political idealism in Washington, DC. All of these things point to the collapse of the unspoken agreement upon which so much of American prosperity depended: that there would be solid middle class jobs available; home ownership was an achievable goal that provided security; politicians cared first about their constituents’ needs, etc. Packer shows how all these assumptions eroded away until even people who did what they were “supposed” to still couldn’t make it in the new American economy. It’s heartbreaking in parts, infuriating throughout, but an essential read for anyone trying to understand where we are now. I thought the brief discussion in one of the chapters on Peter Thiel (who many of you will recognize as a Donald Trump supporter who spoke at the Republican Convention) about the Romney-Obama election in 2012 was illuminating; Thiel advocated for a dark vision of America as the only way for Romney to win. Romney didn’t listen and lost. Seems like Thiel found his perfect candidate in 2016…

105dchaikin
feb 7, 2017, 1:06 pm

Katie - that point about Romney was really interesting, especially today.

106weird_O
feb 13, 2017, 11:49 am

Almost a week since the last post. Is everyone finished?

I read The Unwinding when it was first published and scrolling through the comments and reviews here bring it back. I do want to re-read the book, and soon. I have the Packer article published just before election day, which Erik recommended, and I want to read it too.

107EBT1002
feb 13, 2017, 4:08 pm

I'm just starting Part III. It's an amazing read -- I am learning a lot and enjoying his use of individual stories to tell the country's story.

108streamsong
feb 14, 2017, 8:57 am

I'm also in Part III. It's an emotionally tough read, but also very eye opening. I so want to skip ahead and see what he has to say about Elizabeth Warren (Pocahontas, indeed! Grrrr)

109hailelib
feb 19, 2017, 4:10 pm

Finished today. It certainly throws some light on how we got to where we are today.

110EBT1002
feb 21, 2017, 5:27 pm

I forgot to post this from my thread.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer


The Unwinding tells the story of the American economic and cultural shifts through the stories of a variety of individual Americans. He starts and ends with Dean Price, a smart white working class guy living in the piedmont of North Carolina, descendent of a tobacco-growing family in a tobacco-growing region which had, by the millennium, fallen into apparently permanent disintegration. Packer also follows Jeff Connaughton, a white upper-middle-class political strategist who spent much of his career shadowing Joe Biden, hoping for a crack at helping "his guy" earn a term in the White House. We meet Tammy Thomas, a relatively uneducated black assembly line worker from Youngstown, Ohio, who watched her community go into deep decline after the Steel jobs disappeared and who, later, found purpose and meaning in local politics as she poured herself into saving the town she loves. We also peek briefly into the lives of Newt Gingrich, Robert Ruben, Andrew Breitbart, Elizabeth Warren, and we follow the radically different trajectories of Tampa and Silicon Valley through the latter part of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st centuries.

Packer's story is that of a persistent unwinding of the American dream, and the role that big money (and I mean big money) has played in that decline. The influence held by the extremely wealthy few and the ineffectualness of even the most inspired leaders to nudge the direction of our plutocracy is, at best, discouraging. Packer calls out individuals who hold some bit of responsibility in creating our current economic and political mess, including Presidents Clinton and Obama, as well as (for example) banks that have lobbied effectively for deregulation even in the face of sound evidence that said regulations protect our economy from boom-bust cycles that tend to most adversely affect the middle and working classes. But this work is less about individuals than it is about a system. It is about a system that is vulnerable to manipulation and undermining, and it is about a system that has become so esoteric and complicated that it's difficult to see where actual individuals might alter its course.

Packer published this book well before the 2016 election but his work appears to have predicted the outcome. I was particularly struck by his description of Matt, Dean Price's lodger who found himself working for Wal-Mart, earning about $8 an hour:
What really depressed Matt was how monetary everything had become in America, how it was just the biggest profit at the lowest cost. It was all about me, me, me, and no one wanted to help anyone else. The lobbyists, the politicians -- they were all corrupt, taking everything from those who had the least. His favorite thing to do when he was alone in Dean's basement relaxing with a beer was to watch old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. It was a better America back then. If he could have grown up at any time it would have been in the fifties, which was the last great time in America. He hated to say it but it was true.

And there is this, referring to Peter Thiel, who originally founded PayPal and has become a wacky but terrifyingly influential billionaire who is on the executive committee of Donald Trump's transition team:
Thiel was an elite among elites, but he directed his intellectual fire at his own class, or the people a couple of rungs down -- professionals making two or three hundred thousand a year. Elites had become complacent. If they couldn't grasp the reality of a tech slowdown, it was because their own success skewed them in an optimistic direction, and wealth inequality kept them from seeing what was happening in places like Ohio. "If you were born in 1950 and were in the top ten percent, everything got better for twenty years automatically. Then, after the late sixties, you went to a good grad school, and you got a good job on Wall Street in the late seventies, and then you hit the boom. Your story has been one of incredible, unrelenting progress for sixty years. Most people who are sixty years old in the U.S. -- not their story at all." The establishment had been coasting for a long time and was out of answers. Its failure pointed to new directions, maybe Marxist, maybe libertarian, along a volatile trajectory that it could no longer control.
I don't make that much money nor did I ever work on Wall Street, but I know he is speaking to and of me.

This book moved along at an easy clip: engaging, infuriating, terrifying, and fascinating. I learned a lot. I feel a deeper and more complex understanding of our political and economic system and how we have ended up where we currently are. I feel no more clarity about how we get out of this mess, but I'm also no less determined to join the chorus of voices demanding that the 1950s were not really the greater America and that a return to the cultural values of that time are not the answer to our apparently inexorable decline as a nation. Highly recommended.

111dallenbaugh
feb 22, 2017, 2:25 pm

>110 EBT1002: Excellent summation of The Unwinding

112The_Hibernator
feb 27, 2017, 9:47 am

I'm so glad this discussion went well without me! :) I'm sorry I was absent for the second half of it. But I'm back again, and I've started a thread for Strangers in Their Own Land: http://www.librarything.com/topic/250079

113tymfos
Redigeret: mar 3, 2017, 6:54 pm

My new job kept me from finishing my ILL copy, even after a renewal. But I just snagged an e-book copy via Overdrive, and hope to finally finish.

I don't know if I'll get to Strangers in their own land or not.

114inge87
mar 3, 2017, 9:31 pm

I managed to finish on the 27th. I wrote a short review on my threads. Hopefully Strangers in Their Own Land will be better.

115ffortsa
Redigeret: mar 9, 2017, 5:12 pm

I just listened to a Freakonomics podcast that deals directly with the loss of factory jobs as a result of trade with China. Very interesting, as it outlines how economists in favor of trade agreements underestimated the dislocation China's growth would cause.

you can find it here