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Is America Coming Apart?

Is America Coming Apart? Addressing Economic, Social, and Ideological Stratification in the United States

A compilation of essays written by Kevin Brown, Steve Clements, Darren Guerra, Jeff Keuss, and William Reddinger


In 2012, AEI Scholar Charles Murray offered a compelling diagnosis of the bifurcation of American society in his bestselling book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. Historically known for its large middle class and relative social equality, the US now finds itself home to a distinct upper and lower class that increasingly live in different cultures. Yet, this phenomenon is not merely five years old. As Murray argues, it is the result of decades of cultural change and steady socioeconomic trends, which have largely been hidden from the public eye.

As 2017 begins, most Americans are justifiably relieved to be leaving behind a brutal, ugly election year. However, despite all the bad, the election did serve an invaluable purpose. It sharply awakened us to the reality Murray points to, which until now had not been fully acknowledged by the country at large: America is divided across social, economic, political, racial, and ideological lines.

But what do we do with this newfound awareness? What will the consequences of social stratification be for the future of our country? What can be done to reverse—or, at the very least, adapt to—these trends?

The following essays, written by members of the Values & Capitalism Academic Network, attempt to answer these questions. Although each essay offers a distinct vision of our current situation and the proper way forward, the authors all realize that our country’s division is deeper than politics. And therefore, they importantly understand that true, lasting solutions will not be legislated. They will most often be found in the context of local communities and personal relationships.