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Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Sociology > B00FQUDV7S
  1. The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community
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  2. The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community

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A sweeping new look at the unheralded transformation that is eroding the foundations of American exceptionalism.

Americans today find themselves mired in an era of uncertainty and frustration. The nation's safety net is pulling apart under its own weight; political compromise is viewed as a form of defeat; and our faith in the enduring concept of American exceptionalism appears increasingly outdated.

But the American Age may not be ending. In The Vanishing Neighbor, Marc J. Dunkelman identifies an epochal shift in the structure of American life—a shift unnoticed by many. Routines that once put doctors and lawyers in touch with grocers and plumbers—interactions that encouraged debate and cultivated compromise—have changed dramatically since the postwar era. Both technology and the new routines of everyday life connect tight-knit circles and expand the breadth of our social landscapes, but they've sapped the commonplace, incidental interactions that for centuries have built local communities and fostered healthy debate.

The disappearance of these once-central relationships—between people who are familiar but not close, or friendly but not intimate—lies at the root of America's economic woes and political gridlock. The institutions that were erected to support what Tocqueville called the "township"—that unique locus of the power of citizens—are failing because they haven't yet been molded to the realities of the new American community.

It's time we moved beyond the debate over whether the changes being made to American life are good or bad and focus instead on understanding the tradeoffs. Our cities are less racially segregated than in decades past, but we’ve become less cognizant of what's happening in the lives of people from different economic backgrounds, education levels, or age groups. Familiar divisions have been replaced by cross-cutting networks—with profound effects for the way we resolve conflicts, spur innovation, and care for those in need.

The good news is that the very transformation at the heart of our current anxiety holds the promise of more hope and prosperity than would have been possible under the old order. The Vanishing Neighbor argues persuasively that to win the future we need to adapt yesterday’s institutions to the realities of the twenty-first-century American community.

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Marc J. Dunkelman
Kindle Edition
Kindle eBook
W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company
Most Helpful Customer Reviews

I heard Mr. Dunkelman speak and then bought his book. He speaks to how our spheres of contact no longer include the middle folks: our neighbors, our "Christmas card" friends, those with whom we are "friendly but not intimate." We once interacted with many different kinds of people (doctors, grocers, plumbers, teachers and the like), and thus had relationships that encouraged discussion and compromise. This is missing today, and means we have lost our neighborliness, once a hallmark of American life.

He discusses how he believes this happened, but does not go so far as to suggest a way to fix it. I think that is a good thing, and I recommend this as an interesting take on the problem of our disconnectedness.
I've been thinking.... If someone is sick - why not understand the reasons for the development of sickness, instead of just shoving pills and performing surgeries on people? What's wrong with this system, and why this is happening? "Vanishing Neighbor" by Mark Dunkelman has one answer to my question -- by looking at how society changed, and why, it pretty much summarizes what I have observed myself in the last 14 years working in Silicon Valley, with the introduction of "uniting technologies" that are mentioned in this book. I now clearly see why people feel more isolated walking on a street and more "plugged in/connected" when they are on-line. I am also agreeing that laws and institution were built to accomodate a completely different era, that they are rather obsolete, and broken - and we see the results on daily basis... take Healthcare and Education. Such an extensive research and data driven narrative. Excellent excellent source of information for... Read more
Slow in the first few chapters if you've read other books like this, but Dunkelman has a fresh take that explains a whole slew of big problems in America--and really brings them into focus. Well worth reading.
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