RaveNational ReviewCrazy times in our politics are often the best times to seek some perspective and clarity and to look for a framework for understanding how we got here. And there’s a new book out this week that offers just that, and in a wonderfully engaging form ... There are lots of reasons to worry about generational analyses, and especially the danger of painting with too broad a brush, but Andrews is keenly aware of the dangers and the approach she takes is suitably humble ... By talking about particular individuals, their lives and characters, rather than just telling a sweeping story, she helps us get to the bottom of some patterns without pretending to be comprehensive. Each portrait is wonderfully done in itself, and by the end it’s clear she really is drawing a portrait of a set of attitudes that have just utterly dominated American culture and politics for as long as most of us are old enough to remember ... It is exceptionally fair to its subjects, sometimes surely too fair and appreciative, yet it also doesn’t hesitate to reach right to the core of their weaknesses and insecurities and put those starkly before the reader ... Each chapter, each profile, is full of brilliant nuggets of both biography and analysis.
Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAt the core of The Upswing is a simple and powerful insight: The heights of solidarity from which America has fallen since the middle of the 20th century were themselves reached by a steady ascent over the prior half-century ... Drawing ingeniously on a vast array of data—economic, political, cultural, social and more—Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett persuasively demonstrate that Gilded Age America suffered from civic and social strains remarkably similar to our own ... Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett’s description of the history involved is not without its own distortions. They take on enormously complicated economic, social, cultural and political trends with only limited space to describe them, and the result inevitably tends to magnify their preconceptions ... The complicated links between solidarity and exclusion (and between fragmentation and inclusion) fall into a recurring blind spot in the book ... Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett tend to underplay the upside of declining solidarity ... Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett also tend to play down the role of the intense national mobilizations of the first half of the 20th century—around the two world wars and the Great Depression—in enabling the remarkable increase in social cohesion they describe. This is always a touchy subject for communitarians ... Even so, the fact that The Upswing enables us to ask such a question, and so to think about the practical preconditions for revitalization, is a mark of its achievement. In a sweeping yet remarkably accessible book, Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett provide a crucial missing ingredient in contemporary social commentary: They lay out a sociology of success that, drawing on our history, can help us think concretely about how to enable a revival of American life.
RaveThe National ReviewEnormously important ... in the very top ranks of sustained efforts to make some policy sense of the political realities of our era. It offers a vision of the sort of direction the American right should have taken in recent years if it were actually responsive to the challenges and pressures the country now confronts, rather than succumbing to a frantic cult of personality moved by every batty whim of a raving narcissist. And so it offers a vision of where the right could still go in the post-Trump era if we’re lucky ... Cass’s argument has something in it to make everyone uncomfortable...Ideas that make us uncomfortable are exactly the sorts of ideas we all now need to confront, so that we can at least consider how the political earthquakes of the last few years ought to alter our perspectives ... in fact, I left Cass’s book, and his American Interest essay previewing it, wondering if his ideas actually point beyond his own comfort zone — and so if he might be underselling them. Cass treats his core insight as a different way to think about economic policy. But I think it’s more like an assertion of the limitations of economic policy, and economic thinking ... This is a book you’re not going to want to miss.