Monday, January 19, 2015

A tour of "Fishtown", Philly neighborhood said to demonstrate loss of "social capital"

I had reviewed Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010” back in March 2012 on my Book Reviews blog, and today I (finally) got to one of the two neighborhoods he covers in his book.  That is the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, mostly about 2 miles northeast of the city center, just above I-95 as it swings toward the NE leaving downtown, a mile north of US-30 and the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The central street is York St., and I saw new condos and artist’s spaces, mixed in with older brownstones.  It really didn’t look so much like a working class area now.  The warehouse-loft are of Minneapolis is comparable.

Murray was critical of the breakdown of social cohesion in working class neighborhoods.  But he did a questionable comparison of Fishtown with Belmont, an affluent suburb of Boston. He noted that people were less likely to join organizations or work together for common causes in Fishtown now than in the past. 

There is a strange paradox about hyperindividualism associated with libertarianism – and Murray has another book explaining why he is a libertarian.   Typically libertarians want to set and follow their own personal goals, and the bureaucracy of organizations may stifle them.  Yet, we’ve never seen so much initiative to help others broadcast in the media and on social media as we do these days. Murray (who lives near Frederick, MD) sounds more like Rick Santorum (from PA) in his book than I would expect. 

If you want to see a real working class neighborhood, visit “Port Richmond”, north of the railroad tracks, populated with one-way alleys and rowhouses.  I met a young white couple which told me that the neighborhood was still the same as it had been for a century – Polish Catholic.  Did Murray visit this neighborhood? 

This whole point came up in a congregational breakfast meeting at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC Sunday (on my main blog yesterday).
Murray is also said to have advocated that successful people “preach what they practice.

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