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Discussion of The Unwinding:An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

  • Sep 8, 2013 · 5:00 PM
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The poll is now closed and our selection for September will be:


The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

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 rending the social contract, driving 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 the United States 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 oscillating 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. Packer interweaves these intimate stories with biographical sketches of the era’s leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics that capture the flow of events and their 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.


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  • A former member
    A former member

    Good discussion. I guess the book got 4 on average from our group

    September 8, 2013

  • Barbara W.

    Great discussion today, it seemed to be the missing "analysis" of the book. Spoke briefly with the Ukrainian man (Neil?) about the "greatness" of United States, and he made a point about the innovation that makes America unique; maybe a million Dean Prices leads to one Mark Zuckerman. Felt like there was a whole thread about populism that we could have pursued if we'd had a couple more hours, lol.

    September 8, 2013

  • Christopher R.

    Had a blast at the discussion today -- great to hear a variety of viewpoints and thoughtful comments. In anticipation of "The New Jim Crow," I'd encourage everyone to also check out the superb drug war documentary "The House I Live In," available streaming on Netflix and on iTunes. See you all soon!

    2 · September 8, 2013

  • Karen S.

    Here is the Pearlstein piece on possible reasons for the emphasis on shareholder profits uber alles, the structures that support this, the reasons why this might not be a good idea (including lower shareholder profit), and some ideas on what can be done.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/businesses-focus-on-maximizing-shareholder-value-has-numerous-costs/2013/09/05/bcdc664e-045f-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_story.html

    1 · September 8, 2013

  • Christina H.

    Sorry, drop-in guests kept me at home. I thought the book was very well-written, could hardly put it down. But at the same time it made me sad and angry to be reminded of how things have changed since those golden days of the 50s. I guess since then things have gotten better for some groups, notably African-Americans (although there's still such a long way to go) and LGBT people. But the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, in a country that has so much, feels like a crime.

    1 · September 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Family obligations at the last minute—can't make it

    September 8, 2013

  • lorena

    I can't make it either so I hope others will make comments on - line.

    September 8, 2013

  • Jannie D.

    Greetings. I really appreciated the opportunity to read this emotionally challenging book. It brought up so much anger about what has happened to so many during the last 25 years of the "unwinding" of the middle and lower classes. Hard work no longer means you will "make it" in this society--if it ever did. Unfortunately, I have a client with a book launch this afternoon that doesn't end until after 5 and don't think I'll make it too the group. Enjoy the discussion!

    September 8, 2013

  • Karen S.

    Given the long waiting lists at the library, is there anyone in the Berkeley area who would be willing to lend me their copy for a week anytime between now and September 8?

    August 11, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    oops! Have a conflicting event that overlaps meeting time.

    August 4, 2013

  • Tom W.

    Purchased the book yesterday. A page-turner, indeed!

    July 28, 2013

  • lorena

    Has this club already read The Mind's Eye or Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks???

    July 26, 2013

    • Scott H.

      The group has read An Anthropologist On Mars by Sacks and that was very well rated. Hallucinations was on the overflow list in December of 2012 and then on the top ten list for the Jan, Feb, Mar, and April meetings. Maybe we try the Mind's Eye and see if that resonates with the group?

      July 26, 2013

    • lorena

      An Anthropologist sounds great. I'll have to read it someday. We can try the Mind's Eye and see what happens. Thanks

      July 26, 2013

  • Jeff G

    I'll take a look at this one, tho I think the approach is not going to yield any discoveries.

    July 26, 2013

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