Christian McNamara is a researcher and lecturer at the Yale School of Management and has also worked as an attorney, social sector consultant, and executive director of a small youth development non-profit. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Law School. Christian lives with his wife and two children in Hamden, CT.
For Kaplan, when comparing two countries and asking why one has succeeded where the other has failed, what matters most is not national policies but “societal dynamics—the strength of the social glue, the nature of relationships across groups, and the role of social institutions.” These are things that manifest (or fail to manifest) at the local level.
It is not solely (or perhaps even primarily) about there being more hours of work and therefore less time for reading. It is about the possibility of work hovering over every moment of supposed leisure. For me, that is the fundamental distraction, not TikTok. So yes, smartphones are the problem.
Certainly there is a need for a national conversation and national solutions... But reading The Other Side of Prospect, one is left with the sense that the ultimate authors of Newhallville’s future revitalization, if it is to occur, will be its community members
Establishments like The Bookstore, when at their best, are not exclusively or perhaps even primarily in the business of providing people with printed texts. They are places in which proprietors like Tannenbaum foster community in the context of a shared love of the written word. When the need to physically isolate undermines the ability of such places to foster this community, they are at risk of becoming less essential to their patrons.
For Quinones, the twin opioid and meth epidemics have their origins in the destruction of community. The decline of local institutions creates a vacuum of isolation and hopelessness in which drugs can gain a foothold, despite all efforts to keep them out. Reading The Least of Us, one is struck again and again by the seeming futility of efforts to solve the drug problem by limiting the available supply of illicit substances.
It is not because I bear Harvard any ill will that I wish we could all just shut up about it already. Rather, I am concerned that our national obsession with elite colleges is making many of us miserable, while at the same time distracting us from parts of the higher education landscape that are deserving of more attention.
The tragedy of the hold Hoover’s rugged individualism continues to have on the American psyche in our increasingly atomized age is that his formulation risks presenting a false dichotomy between state control over an increasingly large swath of our lives on the one hand and society as comprised of individual and independent actors on the other.