Going Solo

From the ever-inspiring Hermitary (again!), a review of an interesting book on solitary living in the modern world: Eric Klinenberg: “Going Solo, the Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”, New York: Penguin Press, 2012: http://www.hermitary.com/bookreviews/klinenberg.html
Going solo
“The appeal of Going Solo is the modern non-fiction book mix of statistics and factoids, case studies, interviews, and breezy narrative. Living alone today in the United States and the developed countries revolves around a heady mix of sociological movements: mores, labor, deprecation of marriage, reemergence of urban life, and the atomization of society, for better or worse.

During the past half century, our species has embarked on a remarkable social experiment. For the first time in human history, great numbers of people — at all ages, in all places, of every political persuasion — have begun settling down as singletons.

By “singleton,” author Klinenberg means not unmarried people but people living alone. In the U.S., 28 percent do, clustered in large cities where easy access to 24/7 social life revolving around restaurants, cafes, shops, entertainment centers, and especially job sources for younger people and social services for older people are more accessible than in suburbia or smaller cities and towns. Ease of living quarters, human contact, employment, and transportation have highlighted a trend away from institutional commitments, having children, and maintaining life-long relationships, whether to partners or employers. The trend fulfills American individualism originating in Emerson, Thoreau, the encounter with the frontier, and material culture, such that, as the author puts it, “it would be easy to conclude that the contemporary urban singleton is just the latest variation on this theme.”…..

The social changes driving the shift towards living alone are here to stay, and policy-makers and cultural critics need to realize that living alone is “a valid individual choice” that has not accelerated a decline in collective life or social commitments but transformed them, such that things “are unlikely to be reversed.” That said, however, people today

can easily forget that it’s vital to learn how to be alone. … [I]instead of leading to loneliness or isolation, having a place of one’s own gives us time and space for a productive retreat. Solitude, once we learn how to use it, does more than restore our personal energy. It also sparks new ideas about how we might better live together.

Klinenberg’s book addresses many of the popularized excoriations of living alone, while realistically analyzing the causes of the singleton movement. The book usefully supersedes the plethora of recent books on contemporary aloneness to offer constructive facts and insights.”

“During the past half century, our species has embarked on a remarkable social experiment. For the first time in human history, great numbers of people—at all ages, in all places, of every political persuasion—have begun settling down as singletons. Until recently, most of us married young and parted only at death. If death came early, we remarried quickly; if late, we moved in with family, or they with us. Now we marry later. (The Pew Research Center reports that the average age of first marriage for men and women is “the highest ever recorded, having risen by roughly five years in the past half century.”) We divorce, and stay single for years or decades. We survive our spouses, and do whatever we can to avoid moving in with others—even, perhaps especially, our children. We cycle in and out of different living arrangements: alone, together, together, alone.

Not long ago, it might have made sense to treat living on our own as a transitional stage between more durable arrangements, whether coupling up with a partner or moving into an institutional home. This is no longer appropriate, because today, for the first time in centuries, the majority of all American adults are single. The typical American will spend more of his or her adult life unmarried than married, and for much of this time he or she will live alone. Naturally, we are adapting. We are learning to go solo, and crafting new ways of living in the process.”
Going solo 2
An interview with the author can be found at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Eric-Klinenberg-on-Going-Solo.html
A review from the “New York Observer” is at http://observer.com/2012/02/all-alone-eric-klinenberg-examines-the-rise-in-single-living-in-going-solo/


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