The Unwinding : Thirty Years of American Decline, Paperback

The Unwinding : Thirty Years of American Decline Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


America is in crisis. In the space of a generation, it has become more than ever a country of winners and losers, as industries have failed, institutions have disappeared and the country's focus has shifted to idolise celebrity and wealth.

George Packer narrates the story of America over the past three decades, bringing to the task his empathy with people facing difficult challenges, his sharp eye for detail and a gift for weaving together engaging narratives.

The "Unwinding" moves deftly back and forth through the lives of its people, including Dean Price, the son of tobacco farmers, who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South; Tammy Thomas, a factory worker in the industrial Midwest attempting to survive the collapse of her city; Jeff Connaughton, a political careerist in Washington; and Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire.

Their stories are interspersed with biographical sketches of the era's leading public figures, from Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs, to create a rich, wise and very human portrait of the USA in these hard times. The "Unwinding" portrays a superpower coming apart at the seams, its elites and institutions no longer working, leaving ordinary people to improvise their own schemes for salvation.

George Packer is also the author of "The Assassin's Gate", which was named one of the ten best books of 2005 by the "New York Times" and won the Helen Bernstein Book Award. "A tour de force ...A fascinating journey through an America that has largely remained hidden from view.

There are echoes of Don DeLillo's Underworld in the scope of Packer's vision and his deft eye for language and detail." (Sunday Business Post).


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of the Americas
  • ISBN: 9780571251292



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For a book that I bought under a misconception, and for a discount, <i>The Unwinding</i> actually proved to be both instructive and engrossing. True, there are around 130 pages too many for the subject - Packer makes his point in part one - but I love reading about life's successes and survivors, and this account of twenty-first century America has plenty of both.Packer writes about Tammy Thomas, working to bring together a struggling Ohio community; Dean Price, an biofuel entrepreneur from North Carolina; Peter Thiel, who cofounded PayPal in Silicon Valley; Jeff Connaughton, getting nowhere fast in Washington; and covers the housing market in Tampa, Florida, from the perspective of a reporter and the polarized views of residents. Also covered are brief biographies on celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Colin Powell and Jay-Z. Some stories were more interesting than others - Tammy Thomas, the Occupy Wall Street sit-in of 2011 - but the contrast of the best and the worst of the American Dream in action really got me thinking. Basically, modern day America can be summed up in two phrases - 'I'm all right, Jack, pull up the ladder', and 'the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer'. No different to the UK, I suppose, except that money and materialism determine the 'class system' of the US, while the top layer driving this country into the dirt have either inherited or married power, rather than earning it. Fact is more depressing than fiction.