Synopses & Reviews
The untold story of why America is so culturally and politically divided
America may be more diverse than ever coast to coast, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote as we do. This social transformation didn't happed by accident. Weve built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood -- and religion and news show -- most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this way-of-life segregation. Our country has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred, that people dont know and cant understand those who live just a few miles away. The reason for this situation, and the dire implications for our country, is the subject of this groundbreaking work.
In 2004, the journalist Bill Bishop, armed with original and startling demographic data, made national news in a series of articles showing how Americans have been sorting themselves over the past three decades into alarmingly homogeneous communities -- not by region or by red state or blue state, but by city and even neighborhood. In The Big Sort, Bishop deepens his analysis in a brilliantly reported book that makes its case from the ground up, starting with stories about how we live today and then drawing on history, economics, and our changing political landscape to create one of the most compelling big-picture accounts of America in recent memory.
The Big Sort will draw comparisons to Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone and Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class and will redefine the way Americans think about themselves for decades to come.
"Pulitzer Prize finalist Bishop offers a one-idea grab bag with a thesis more provocative than its elaboration. Bishop contends that 'as Americans have moved over the past three decades, they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs, and in the end, politics.' There are endless variations of this clustering what Bishop dubs the Big Sort as like-minded Americans self-segregate in states, cities even neighborhoods. Consequences of the Big Sort are dire: 'balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible; a growing intolerance for political differences that has made national consensus impossible; and politics so polarized that Congress is stymied and elections are no longer just contests over policies, but bitter choices between ways of life.' Bishop's argument is meticulously researched surveys and polls proliferate and his reach is broad. He splices statistics with snippets of sociological theory and case studies of specific towns to illustrate that while the Big Sort enervates government, it has been a boon to advertisers and churches, to anyone catering to and targeting taste. Bishop's portrait of our 'post materialistic' society will probably generate chatter; the idea is catchy, but demonstrating that 'like does attract like' becomes an exercise in redundancy." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Essential reading for activists, poli-sci types, journalists and trend-watchers." Kirkus Reviews
"A timely, highly readable discussion of American neighborhoods and the implications of who lives in them." Library Journal
"A book posing hard questions across the political spectrum." Booklist, ALA, Boxed Review
"Bishop's argument is meticulously researchedsurveys and polls proliferateand his reach is broad." Publishers Weekly
"a gripping new book" - The Economist
"Jam-packed with fascinating data, "The Big Sort" presents a provocative portrait of the splintering of America." Boston Globe
"[a] rich and challenging book about the ways in which the citizens of this country have, in the past generation, rearranged themselves into discrete enclaves that have little to say to one another and little incentive to bother trying." The Wall Street Journal
In the tradition of "The Affluent Society" and "Bowling Alone," this work illustrates that neighborhoods are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote alike. The reason for this situation, and the dire implications for our country, is the subject of this groundbreaking work.
In 2004, journalist Bill Bishop coined the term "the big sort." Armed with startling new demographic data, he made national news in a series of articles showing how Americans have been sorting themselves into alarmingly homogeneous communities -- not by region or by state, but by city and even neighborhood. Over the past three decades, we have been choosing the neighborhood (and church and news show) compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. The result is a country that has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred that people don't know and can't understand those who live a few miles away. How this came to be, and its dire implications for our country, is the subject of this ground-breaking work.
In The Big Sort, Bishop has taken his analysis to a new level. He begins with stories about how we live today and then draws on history, economics and our changing political landscape to create one of the most compelling big-picture accounts of America in recent memory.
About the Author
BILL BISHOP was a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman when he began research on city growth and political polarization with the sociologist and statistician Robert Cushing. Bishop has worked as a columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, and, with his wife, owned and operated the Bastrop County Times, a weekly newspaper in Smithville, Texas. He lives in Austin.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1 Part I: The Power of Place 1. The Age of Political Segregation 19 2. The Politics of Migration 41 3. The Psychology of the Tribe 58
Part II: The Silent Revolution 4. Culture Shift: The 1965 Unraveling 81 5. The Beginning of Division: Beauty and Salvation in 1974 105 6. The Economics of the Big Sort: Culture and Growth in the 1990s 129
Part III: The Way We Live Today 7. Religion: The Missionary and the Megachurch 159 8. Advertising: Grace Slick, Tricia Nixon, and You 182 9. Lifestyle: Books, Beer, Bikes, and Birkenstocks” 196
Part IV: The Politics of People Like Us 10. Choosing a Side 221 11. The Big Sort Campaign 249 12. To Marry Your Enemies 276
Acknowledgments 307 Notes 310 Selected Bibliography 337 Index 350