Charles Murray on Coming Apart

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, longtime American Enterprise Institute fellow Charles Murray discusses his controversial new book, Coming Apart, about what American was, is, and will become. He also reveals his personal score on his now famous “bubble quiz.” Take the quiz here…

let’s talk about the functioning of a
free society because that’s what I go
back to the founders were unanimous in
saying this Constitution will not work
with just any kind of population the
population must possess certain virtues
and this virtue virtue chef this is not
just one or two founders who said this
they all did and they also focused on
four that were crucial all of them agree
there were others that they had in the
list but these four were central the

  1. integrity of marriage
  2. industriousness
  3. religiosity and up
  4. plain american

and they said you know without
those you cannot have a self-governing
population the trends that i described
in Fishtown
are in effect saying that the virtues
required to be a self-governing
community are slipping toward a tipping
point beyond return and at that point we
will have a permanent lower class that
is different in kind from a lower class
that the united states has had before
that it is both sizeable and it is no
longer participating in american
institutions so you will have you will
have an upper class that will still be
living a fine life and the middle class
will be doing fairly well but something
very fundamental to the common the
universality of being an American let
the embrace that it that it intended to
have of all people that’ll be gone and
that is going to be a huge loss it’s
also going to
induce the creation of an extensive
welfare state far beyond the one we have
now from coming apart a few statistics
Charles I’ll just run through a few of
those you present voted in the
presidential election down 22 percent
from 1960 to 1996 attended a public
meeting on town or school affairs down
35 percent from 1973 to 1994 served as
an officer of some club or organization
you talk about the Elks and rotary and
so forth local organization 42 percent
from 73 to 94 percentage of parents with
children under age 18 who were members
of the PTA down 61% from 1960 to 1997
and these statistics tell us what well
these come by the way from Bowling Alone
the excellent book written by Robert
Putnam about a decade ago they are
represent across the American population
those reductions the native question
that arises well were these evenly split
across right they were not so that these
reductions are concentrated in Fishtown
in the working-class community and it’s
and what difference does that make
well the social capital because that’s
the social scientists phrase for it is
another word for what has been the glue
of American community which has been the
spirit and the vitality of American
community and that goes away and it’s
all linked up with the other trends that
we’ve discussed in previous segments
religiosity who accounts for these
wonderful kinds of social capital Robert
Putnam says about half of all social
capital comes directly from the
religious population and even more comes
from it because religious people are
more likely to be engaged in secular
forms of social capital than
non-religious people so you’re looking
at a real mess focused on Fishtown not
in belmont coming apart quote the big
question is whether the remaining levels
of social trust in Fishtown are enough
to sustain anything approaching the
traditional expectations of a
American neighborliness and local
problem solving it is hard for me

People Are Still Getting Married, and This Book Is Here to Help

Why would a woman ever marry a man? “Happy Ever After,” a new book by the behavioral scientist Paul Dolan, argues that women who don’t marry or have children are happier and live longer than those who do. A University of Arizona study from 2017 suggested that divorce improves the health of postmenopausal women. Mountains of academic and anecdotal research indicate that married heterosexual women suffer from an unequal division of labor at home. As the sociologist Lisa Wade has written, “marriage is a moment of subordination”—it is definitionally unequal, and perhaps it follows that it is obsolete. We keep hearing these messages, and we keep getting married anyway, much as the sitcom husband keeps leaving the socks on the floor. And perhaps we stay married in the same resigned spirit as the wife who decides to stop nagging the sitcom husband about the socks and resolves to pick them up herself, without complaint, every day, until one of them is dead.

Marriageology: The Art and Science of Staying Together,” a warm and companionable volume by Belinda Luscombe, does not really question the notion of marriage as the societal default. As such, the book arrives in the world already feeling like an artifact. “Marriage, that fusty old institution, is worth fighting for,” Luscombe writes. A marriage may “wilt” naturally, like produce, she explains, but a bit of ingenuity may perhaps preserve it, in the way that one refrigerates a vegetable, or pickles it. Preservation is a goal unto itself, and a rebuke to a culture that feels ever more transitory: “Permanence is temporarily out of favor,” the author writes. “Things that have been around for a while are no longer accorded honor simply because they’ve endured.” But Luscombe’s examples of venerated antiques—“beautiful cathedrals, old growth forests, vintage clothes”—do not derive value simply from their age. Some unions resemble an old shed more than the Hagia Sophia.

Luscombe does acknowledge that marriage has been rapidly transformed by economic, technological, and sociological factors: ballooning personal debt, stagnating wages, advances in fertility science, waning stigma against singledom, the rise of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, gender fluidity, the Internet. As material and cultural realities have shifted around marriage, so has its meaning. “People want relationships that will make them more perfect versions of themselves,” Luscombe observes. “They want fulfillment, stimulation, security, devotion, status, liberation, connection, collaboration, personal brand enhancement, transformation.” In a recent essay in the Times, Amanda Hess describes the Internet phenomenon of the “wife guy”—or the man who achieves virality and builds a personal brand by posting about his mate—as a product of an era when “marriage is being pitched less as the fulfillment of a social contract and more as a kind of personal achievement.” “Marriageology” accepts this premise without much in the way of either endorsement or critique; the book’s approach is practical, its imagination conventional. In a couple’s quest toward self-actualization in tandem, Luscombe recommends that they fortify their bond by doing exciting things (skiing, going to concerts) in each other’s company. Such efforts, she writes, create an association between your spouse and your own sense of personal enlargement: a useful confusion of correlation and causation.

“Marriageology” is organized into six topic areas, which are framed as challenges to long-term monogamy: familiarity (“when a relationship is more commute than adventure”), fighting, finances, family, fooling around, and finding help. Luscombe’s hacks for each are fairly intuitive. One should practice gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness. One should steer clear of the “conflict behaviors” most predictive of divorce: contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness. The guide brushes an unnecessary but fun veneer of brain science over its prescriptions. It’s best to apologize quickly, so that bad feelings aren’t consolidated and stored in your partner’s long-term memory. Never fight in the car, because images in one’s peripheral vision scan as threatening, and may activate a flight-or-flight response.

Luscombe, a staff writer at Time, has a wry touch, a gift for scene-setting, and an endearingly even temper. But “Marriageology” sweats with a strenuous tolerance for marriage, with the author as the straight-A student dutifully plowing through her least favorite class. On the oft-dispensed marital advice to develop mutual hobbies, Luscombe writes, “research has found that a lot of the so-called ‘shared’ passions end up being the husband’s.” At one point, she describes a recurring fight she has with her spouse. The fight stems from Luscombe’s failure to put the butter dish on the table when she serves dinner; she doesn’t eat butter, so she often forgets. Here, I wanted more from “Marriageology.” Is it the institution of marriage itself that renders a man incapable of fetching his own butter? Is the butter a metaphor for empathy, and has Luscombe neglected to imaginatively connect to her husband’s exact mealtime needs? What is her version of his butter—the thing that she wants? Is it the freedom to envision alternative modes of transporting the butter to the table? Could they both more fully enjoy their symbolic butter if the actual butter found a different path to the table? Would it solve Luscombe’s problem to bring down the actual butter dish on top of her husband’s actual head?

Marriage Therapists Who Follow Their Own Advice

What drew me to John was his ego. It was like a rock; mine was like quicksand. He has the best sense of humor and boundless curiosity. I knew I would never be bored, and I never have. He supports my dreams.

We’ve learned to create a dialogue about our differences and to accept them. Humor kept us alive when we had conflict. We realized we had to stay calm and focused enough to describe ourselves rather than describe each other.

I learned not to run away, to take a break and breathe. To say what I needed or what had hurt me. He’s learned to let me do that. My pauses were me thinking; he took them as I was done, so we had to learn rhythm. We’ve learned deeper understanding, which softens the edges around compromises.

He’s helped me be more patient and tolerant. I’ve become 1,000 times more self-confident. His love has been unconditional. He has seen talent in me I never saw and that took me years to own. He’s become more compassionate, humble, and less defensive.

When I met him, I looked in his eyes and saw his soul, sparkle and intellect. I knew the love we could have would be bedrock. And it has been.

Dr. Gottman I arrived in Seattle in May and dated 60 women in 10 weeks. I found most of them in the personals. Julie was No. 61. She was witty, funny and smart. She was perceptive and insightful, loving and forgiving. She still is. I call her the tiger. She’s very fierce. She’s a good protector of our family.

MissNowMrs: Name Change After Marriage!

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