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on February 1, 2009
Preface: This book was penned before the recent market crash.

Clay Shirky's 'Here Comes Everybody' was the best book that I read in 2008. Dalton Conley's 'Elsewhere, U.S.A.' may prove to be the best book that I read in 2009. [And it's only February 1st!] [Interestingly enough, both Clay Shirky and Dalton Conley are both affiliated with NYU.]

The two central questions that Dalton Conley raises and attempts to answer are these:

Given that:
- When Mr. 1959 (depicted in William Whyte's 'Organization Man') attained a dignified level of professional success (i.e. established one's own dentistry practice, become a vice-president at a tire company, etc.), he often parlayed the accompanying level of income and wealth into more leisure time for he and his family.
- Whereas when Mr. (or increasingly Mrs.) 2009 attains a comparable level of professional success (i.e. rises to the rank of marketing executive for a multinational corporation, joins a prestigious law firm, etc), he (or she) increasingly does *not* parlay the accompanying level of wealth into more leisure time. Instead, he or she winds up working more hours with more economic anxiety.

- How and why did this happen?
- What are the ramifications of this change?

Throughout, Conley asserts that it was not one thing, but many that led us to this economic reality:

Here are just a few:
- Rising economic inequality between high and low wage earners, and self-imposed pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" in a post-materialist society.
- Technology that enables a 24x7 work week.
- Females earning more and remaining in the work force for longer spans of time.
- A lower marginal income tax rate for the top bracket.
- A greater recognition of the opportunity cost associated with "not working".

At the book's conclusion, Conley cautions the reader that it would be unproductive to use one's entire energy to rally against our new reality. In fact, Conley never labels the new reality as universally bad. Instead, he urges the reader to recognize the tradeoffs between what once was and is today.
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on January 17, 2010
Dalton Conley is a researcher with a soul! He connects with today's busy families to ask the question, "Are you feeling like you should be elsewhere?" We are so busy we feel guilty that we are not spending enough time at anything we do. Conley helps us understand the trends that create the feeling so we can assess our own answer to the acceleration of our pace in life. Obviously we can not increase the time we have, but must consider how we allocate it to family, work, social life, volunteering, and ourselves. Since we can not return to a bygone age, Conley says we must "blend and bend" among the many roles we play. His insight into consumption and investment and the maddening incentives we use to induce certain behaviors, is cause to pause, if even for a moment. Conley addresses the broader social issues as well -- taxes and social policy and how they impact society. If you want to reflect on how we got to where we are -- "elsewhere, USA" -- take his book with you on your next "short vacation weekend".
Sheryl Dawson
Total Career Success
Author Job Search: The Total System (3rd Ed)
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on February 9, 2017
amazing read
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on July 28, 2016
Great book
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on September 6, 2010
Although a lot of what the author stated could be considered obvious, I did enjoy his perspective (when provided). I think he may have just been too many places at once when writing a good portion of this book...
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on March 14, 2009
I bought this book after hearing the author on NPR and reading the preview of the book on my Kindle. Unfortunately, the book is disappointing. This book doesn't really tell us anything new and doesn't even do that very well. More aggressive editing might have cut this book in half without any harm; this wouldn't address the main problem I have: this book is a disjointed jumble of factoids, stereotypes and statistics we already have heard and read over and over again and doesn't really tell us "how we got" to where we are today.
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on November 9, 2009
It was used but felt like new...thank you. When you hear used you wonder how the product will appear. But to my disbelief the book was in perfect condition
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on March 10, 2012
I happened to pluck Elsewhere from the shelf of my independently run book store as I obviously often do. Before any further review I would more classify this as a social commentary or study in sociology, the author is actually in the social sciences. At a brisk 200 pages in the hardback edition, without notes and the such, Elsewhere is a fairly quick read. The author writes intelligently and knowledgeably even if at times his points meander within a given chapter. Elsewhere is not a long and dry slog through pointless erudition by any means.
To review the subject matter at hand...I basically agree with Conley on most points, though he was proven to be less than accurate about the lower classes not rioting against the higher classes given the recent (at time of this writing) occupy Wall St movements in a postmodern setting. Conley presents his opinions on modern culture from his own point of view, which seemingly just reinforces the subject matter. My basic critique is that there really was no challenge here, no...well...point to the text. However, I did learn some interesting dynamics of US History as to how loft settings became the choice of artists and bohemians and how crime may not have declined but only morphed into different forms. But despite some tidbits of knowledge this was more like a sociology lecture in the mostly obvious. Even the points I mentioned were not amazing revelations, just things I would have already suspected organized into a narrative.
Poignantly, references to the Blackberry already seem outdated only 3 years after publication. Not in recent memory has anyone tried to show me the features of there new Blackberry, but of course I'm inundated with everyone's latest iPhone/Android apps. Technology moves so fast this already seems fairly dated, not a critique of the work, just a modern truth. I would not discourage this book as a bad read or a waste of time, but I can only recommend to someone particularly interested in a sociological snapshot of what is already becoming the past.
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on March 6, 2009
I was really impressed by the number of insights in this book. They seem to flow one after another. Conley really seems to have a knack for identifying issues; coming up with convincing, deep, and insightful explanations for them; and tying the issues together. And all of this is done with some real passion and skill for writing.

It's important to note that this book is actually a lot more wide-ranging than what's implied on the dust jacket. It's really not just about busyness, multi-tasking, and a general lack of attentiveness. It's much more about how totally the market has penetrated our society (with the busyness simply a symptom of that). In fact, with that in mind, the book really does a good job of summarizing what's wrong with our society these days. In that regard, you might compare it with Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium.

Unfortunately, like Why We Hate Us, the book does go off the rails at points. As an example, the author devotes most of a chapter on crime to his personal experiences growing up in 70s New York City. He tries to tie this to ideas about a declining crime rate and a change to a service and knowledge economy, but it's really rather forced and tacked-on.

That's okay though. Passions and intuitive insights can often be hit or miss. In fact, Conley noted that he was trying to hit a home run with this book (but worried about striking out too). I'd say that, over the course of the game, he did whiff a couple of times, but he also hit a couple of 3-run dingers too.
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on April 25, 2009
The first two chapters are great, but Conley's ELSEWHERE USA fizzles
after that. He acutely portrays the modern madness that surrounds the
typical family in the USA and contrasts that powerfully with his parents
and grandparents lives. The book, however, loses steam the closer it
gets to the end. Conley has no real solutions and his habit of creating vocabulary gets a little stale. But, for its insights, this is still worth reading. If I had the option, I would have given it 3.5 stars.
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