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The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New…

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (2013)

by George Packer

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For a book that I bought under a misconception, and for a discount, The Unwinding actually proved to be both instructive and engrossing. True, there are around 130 pages too many for the subject - Packer makes his point in part one - but I love reading about life's successes and survivors, and this account of twenty-first century America has plenty of both.

Packer writes about Tammy Thomas, working to bring together a struggling Ohio community; Dean Price, an biofuel entrepreneur from North Carolina; Peter Thiel, who cofounded PayPal in Silicon Valley; Jeff Connaughton, getting nowhere fast in Washington; and covers the housing market in Tampa, Florida, from the perspective of a reporter and the polarized views of residents. Also covered are brief biographies on celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Colin Powell and Jay-Z. Some stories were more interesting than others - Tammy Thomas, the Occupy Wall Street sit-in of 2011 - but the contrast of the best and the worst of the American Dream in action really got me thinking. Basically, modern day America can be summed up in two phrases - 'I'm all right, Jack, pull up the ladder', and 'the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer'. No different to the UK, I suppose, except that money and materialism determine the 'class system' of the US, while the top layer driving this country into the dirt have either inherited or married power, rather than earning it. Fact is more depressing than fiction. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jan 12, 2015 |
This is a book which sounds depressing and fatalistic, but presents wonderful stories of individuals making things work in a declining middle America. It's beautifully written, and may be the best non fiction book I read in 2013. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
I cherry-picked the contents. I found the narratives about Dean Price and Tammy Thomas to be most compelling.The politicians, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, however, were not as interesting. Overall, I would recommend to anyone who wants to enhance their understanding of how the system firmly favors those with the advantages of wealth, education, and power. ( )
  Baytide | Dec 31, 2014 |
This is a very creative and complex book. If one hundred people read it I believe you would get that many interpretations. My take is that over the last forty years our country has come under the complete control of the banks. the large corporations and the government who back each other at the expense of the "little man". The poster boy for this is a man named Dean Price who has a creative way to replace the glut of our foreign oil dependence with renewable biofuel produced at the local level to produce good jobs and keep wealth within the local community. Mr Price has been thwarted at every level by the powers mentioned above.There are many other examples. Very thought provoking.. ( )
  muddyboy | Jun 18, 2014 |
The Unwinding is a book that everyone should read. It does not really raise any issues that have not already been spoken about as it relates to society changes since 1980. However, by introducing real people along with known celebrities such as Joe Biden, Jay-Z etc. it creates a contrast to the haves and have nots. This book did win the National Book Award for Non-fiction and Packer is part of the Packer writing family. I enjoyed the book but I was looking for some context and spin from the author and what he had presented. I guess he felt that we would draw the proper conclusion from the stories he presented. I did see the deck stacked against the poor in both background and education. However, I did see a lot of poor decisions made by people looking for the home run instead of a single or double. The topic of income inequality is out there and hopefully will be dealt with in the upcoming mid term election. A healthy working middle class would help all segments of society. I think this is Packer's message. If you already knew this, then this book will reinforce this position and you can choose to skip 430 pages, but if you think that it is all fair and that anyone can get to the top, then you better read this. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Jan 9, 2014 |
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No one can say when the unwinding began - when the coil that held Americans together in its secure and sometimes stifling grip first gave way.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374102414, Hardcover)

A riveting examination of a nation in crisis, from one of the finest political journalists of our generation

Our American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while leaving the social contract in pieces, bringing the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In The Unwinding, George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, tells the story of America over the past three decades in an utterly original way, with his characteristically sharp eye for detail and gift for weaving together complex narratives.

The Unwinding journeys through the lives of several Americans, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a Washington insider who oscillates between political idealism and the lure of organized money; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who questions the Internet’s significance and arrives at a radical vision of the future.

The narrative combines these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and with collages of headlines, slogans, and songs that capture the flow of events and undercurrents. The Unwinding portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.


(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:57 -0400)

Through an examination of the lives of several Americans and leading public figures over the past three decades, Packer portrays a superpower in danger of coming apart at the seams, its elites no longer elite, its institutions no longer working, its ordinary people left to improvise their own schemes for success and salvation.… (more)

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