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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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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 |
George Packer attempts to tell the story of the unwinding of the American post war consensus, unapologetically using the techniques adopted by the great Dos Passos in "USA". He follows the stories of 4 people closely - Dean Price, born on a tobacco farm but with entrepreunerialism in his DNA, Tammy Thomas, a factory worker from Pennsylvania turned activist, trying her best to give her children a better life as American manufacturing and manufacturing towns fall apart, Jeff Conaughton, lawyer, lobbyist, Biden activist and Peter Thiel, Silicon valley innovator.

Interspersed with these are profiles of the great and the good - Oprah, Collin Powell, Elizabeth Warren, Newt Gingrich et al - and a significant exposure of the real estate bubble in Florida and its impact on ordinary people caught in the get rich quick illusion of house flipping

I enjoyed the book a lot. I found myself full of admiration for the resilience of people like Thomas and Price. They are constantly dealt a bad hand from factors outside their control - especially in the case of Thomas. As the song goes, they get knocked down and they get back up again. But I was also struck forcefully - as must be the authors intent - by the deepening inequality thats increasingly built into the system. The difference between the world of Connaughton and Thiel, who despite occasional setbacks, are cushioned and protected by their education and networks, and the lives of some of the Florida residents described in the book, living in their cars, is very very stark.

The pen portraits of famous Americans are good fun; Winfrey and Gingrich are ripped into, Powell gets a sympathetic review and the appraisal of Jay Z is acute. But its the main protaganists that carry the book. A greater number of these would have made the book even better; the immigrant experience for example is not covered and surely America is nothing without its immigrants. Some older citizens would also have been welcomed

But its still a very compelling read ( )
  Opinionated | Jan 4, 2014 |
This book won the National Book Award prize for nonfiction in 2013. It is the 30th such winner I have read. It tells of a guy who often worked for Joe Biden, of a black worker in Youngstown, Ohio, of a guy who tried to build a business,,of Newt Gingrich, of Tampa, and Silicon Valley,and of others. Many of these accounts are of failure and bitterness and it does sort of reflect the mood of pessimism which pemeated John Dos Passos' fictional U.S.A (which I read Aug 17, 1949). I did not enjoy reading this book because of the gloomy things talked about. It is distressing to see good people beaten down by conditions. There is a discussion of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which always seemed so pointless to me and reading this book did nothing to change my view of that. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Joe Biden comes out looking very good and while one could read with satisfaction of the elections of 2008 and 2012, one has to realize that those triumphs did not do as much good as one hoped--but at least they avoided the bad which would have followed if they had not turned out as they did. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jan 3, 2014 |
A fascinating look at the past 35+ years of American culture, policies, politics and the effect on everyday Americans. Packard follows 3 very diverse individuals over this time period and through their stories and mini bios on big names like Gingrich and Jay-Z paints a portrait of how we got to where we are today. Basically a trail of corporate/political corruption not unlike the robber barons of the gilded age that has lead to the largest gap between rich and poor in a century. It should be taken as a warning of the second great depression that is coming because the people in power in Washington and on Wall St have no intention of changing policies that would prevent another collapse. ( )
  zimbawilson | Sep 17, 2013 |
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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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