The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Our Country Apart

Bill Bishop, Author, Robert G. Cushing, With . Houghton Mifflin $25 (370p) ISBN 978-0-618-68935-4

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. (May)

Reviewed on: 02/25/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Paperback - 374 pages - 978-0-547-23772-5
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