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The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

George Packer


This is a fascinating book that somehow fails to satisfy. It consists of a series of biographical sketches -- some short, some extended, of people and places -- that catalogue the "unwinding" of America's social contract over the decades since 1970: how the decline of well-paying, stable, blue-collars jobs and the rise of big-box retainers has destabilised society.

Some of the details are extraordinary, such as the evolution of a community activist in Youngstown, Ohio, in response to the collapse of local industry, or the travails of Tampa, Florida, in the face of a housing bubble. As a whole, however, the book doesn't make its point very clearly. The addition of a descriptive or analytic conclusion might have helped, and indeed I was led to read the book by an interview with the author on Irish radio in which he provided exactly this additional analysis.

3/5. Finished 08 September 2013.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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