Alienated America by Timothy Carney is one of my favorite books of 2019.
Alienated America – Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse by Timothy Carney is the most intriguing book I have read in 2019. There have been a lot of books that attempted to explain what happened with the Trump election in 2016 and I have read many of them. Alienated America is the first to take a deeper approach that goes beyond politics and the familiar narratives and gets to the heart of what is going on in America today.
If I were to describe my favorite type of book it would be one that is able to accurately recognize the reality of my own experience but also move beyond the subjective experience and qualify that interpretation with loads of facts, figures, and data. This is the sociological aspect of a good book for me. It says, this is what is going on and it’s not just your personal experience. This is happening in varying degrees across the country.
From there, the veil is pulled back to go beyond traditional explanations and find the greater causes driving such experiences. Alienated America accomplishes all of these things.
Carney first explores what happened in 2016 and eliminates the false narrative we most often hear. The election of Donald Trump was not the result of people who were tired of change in America. It was not the result of a bunch of bigots who were left behind in the American economy voicing their frustration in protest at the polls. This is a comfortable explanation in the media that allows them to point fingers and paint Trump supporters as the bad guys.
Some of this explanation might hold true but there is actually a deeper reality that is taking shape. Carney provides loads of data and research to get there. We look at everything from “deaths of despair,” to economic factors, to changing social norms, before he finally presents his explanation.
What is happening in America is not merely economic shifts or decaying norms, it is a loss of community and a sense of belonging that was once there. This common but often unnoticed loss is shared across the regions and demographics that were carried by Donald Trump in the elections. It is also shared by those suffering most within the various economic and social problems today. From labor unions to civic organizations, the sense, and mechanisms for is dying in America. The places where community is maintained is where hope, prosperity, and stability are maintained.
Carney even goes deeper than this explaining how the specific institution of church community, its prevalence or decline, is directly linked to the health, prosperity, and stability of the individuals around it. In other words, where churches still stand strong with active engagement among their members, people and families are more healthy, stable, and happy. Conversely, where churches have declined, despair, isolation, and disintegration have followed. Again, all of this is supported with significant data and research.
This is not a Christian book. That was part of what I enjoyed so much about it. It is a book that proved out things I suspect and sense with solid research, not to prove a point but to find an answer to the question – what is wrong with America?
Some critics to the book have pointed out that Carney does not offer a lot of solutions to the problems he identifies in Alienated America. I have a hard time understanding this criticism. The solution is found in the identification of the problem. If we want to restore the quality of life we have to restore the community. Man was never meant to function alone. That is not the design of God. This is not an observation made by Carney. This is Genesis 2:18.
If you’re looking for a good summer read check this one out. I would love to hear your thoughts and impressions if you do so.
If you have not tried Audible.com yet this may be a good one to test this audiobook subscription service on. I have personally been using Audible for more than a decade. It’s a great resource.