In This Review

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
By Charles Murray
Crown Forum, 2012, 416 pp.

For years, cultural conservatives in the United States have denounced the liberalism and loose morals of elites, contrasting them with the values of salt-of-the-earth "real Americans," whose faith and morality are the foundation of liberty. The conservative gadfly Murray makes the opposite case: lower-income, less-educated whites are increasingly unchurched, unmarried, and unemployed, whereas the upper-middle class is pious, monogamous, and hard working. Coming Apart has been widely criticized for attributing this social breakdown to moral causes rather than placing the plight of the white working class in the context of the economic changes of the last 30 years. Still, the picture Murray paints of a demoralized white working class living in the ruins of once-healthy social institutions is compelling and alarming. The inevitable controversy over Murray's diagnosis should not obscure the need to address the conditions he describes. Whether the root causes are economic, cultural, or a mix of the two, the erosion of social capital among working-class nonimmigrant whites is a problem that cannot be safely ignored.