There’s been a lot of discussion of Charles Murray’s “How Thick Is Your Bubble” quiz from Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. Surprisingly, I think we all generally agree on a few things:
1. This wasn’t a scientific survey. It was a conversation-starter, intended for use among American elites who are either actually white or who think themselves well-acquainted with white American culture.
2. The thesis it’s meant to point up is that you as an educated elite know less about the culture of middle- and lower-class whites than you imagine. (I, Charles Murray, am aware of that fact, and I want you to be aware of it too.)
3. At least in our group, that thesis fails. People seem to be scoring a lot higher than Murray expected. I didn’t expect this either.
4. It’s been debated whether the point here is that conservatives “get” ordinary Americans better than liberals. I don’t think that that’s the point, but I can’t rule it out without reading the whole book. My sense is that conservative elites are pretty out of touch, too, but that the media declines to write about them that way.
5. Ilya Somin could very well be right — the divide in white America is real, but it isn’t new. It seems we mostly agree on this, and I know I do. Anyone who has read Paul Fussell’s Class knows that there were class divisions in white American culture long, long ago, and members of the elite were in a lot of ways ignorant of their prole counterparts even in the 60s-80s (without that division, the book would in some ways be unnecessary). Fussell spent almost no time on race and how race inflects class, but he certainly should have included it. Instead what he wrote was a book about white people, a lot like Charles Murray’s, apparently, but without “white people” in the title.