Coming Apart, by Charles Murray, is a major bestseller.
When Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein’s book “The Bell Curve” appeared in 1994, it was denounced by social scientists, liberal pundits and a little-known Chicago civil-rights lawyer named Barack Obama, who in a commentary on NPR accused the authors of calculating that “white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism as long as it’s artfully packaged.”
Anyone who remembers the firestorm over that 845-page doorstop’s dense arguments about race, class, genetics and I.Q. might be tempted to look at the cover of Mr. Murray’s latest book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” and think, “Here we go again.”
But “Coming Apart,” which depicts members of white elites as hypocrites living in a bubble and the white working class as succumbing to moral decay, is hardly a flattering portrait of white people, let alone, Mr. Murray insists, a partisan barnburner.
“It’s not a brief for the right,” Mr. Murray said in a recent interview at the American Enterprise Institute here, where he has been a scholar since 1990. “The problem I describe isn’t a conservative-versus-liberal problem. It’s a cultural problem the whole country has.”
“Coming Apart,” which shot to No. 5 at Amazon.com immediately upon publication last week, has certainly prompted much conversation, if little in the way of consensus. David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, pre-emptively declared it the most important book of the year, saying, “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.”