February 8, 2012
AN IMPORTANT ISSUE—-A CONTROVERSIAL BOOK
Rarely does an issue, an article or a book generate such differing responses from people on the same side of the political spectrum as Charles Murray’s just published Coming Apart.
David Brooks, the conservative-leaning op/ed columnist at The New York Times, has described the book with the following superlatives, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important as Charles Murray’s ‘Coming Apart.’ I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.”
Brooks describes the thrust of Murray’s work, “Murray’s argument is not new, that America is dividing into a two-caste society. What’s new is the incredible data he produces to illustrate that trend and deepen our understanding of it.”
I am a fan of David Brooks and his usually trenchant analysis of current ideas and events. I read his piece in the Times and ordered the Murray book from Amazon. I cited Brooks’ analysis in an email to my kids and nieces and nephews (who in typical millennial fashion dismissed my observations as dated)—-as evidence of the overly simplistic analysis that marks much of our political discourse.
According to Brooks,
Brooks’ description of Murray’s narrative seemed compelling and accurate.
Then I read another analyst’s view, David Frum. He’s the neo-con pundit and former Bush speechwriter who has evidenced a willingness to be less than doctrinaire in his opinions and analysis of current events. He too is a thoughtful and frequently incisive analyst. His take on the same Murray book is quite different.
He acknowledges that Coming Apart is “an important book that will have large influence. It is unfortunately not a good book—but its lack of merit in no way detracts from its importance.” He then proceeds to eviscerate Murray for his line of argument and methodology, “…this kind of polemical use of data is one—but only one—of the things that discredits Coming Apart as an explanation of the social trouble of our times.”
Frum’s critique is so impassioned that it has taken up four lengthy posts on The Daily Beast.
What these two thoughtful, yet divergent, commentators make clear is that this critically important issue—-the increasing gulf between the educated and successful and the unschooled and frustrated—- is a problem that may have myriad explanations and causes but is one that demands attention and a response from our leaders and citizenry.
Take a look at the links in this blog for some entertaining reading.
One thing is for sure, I’m going to read this provocative book.