Authors and Editors in Conversation Alex Star: You've titled your book The Unwinding. What do you mean by that? George Packer: It's a word that a character in the book, Dean Price, once used. He was talking about the way that the economy in his part of the country — rural North Carolina, where tobacco and textiles used to be king — might revert to pre-industrial characteristics, with lots of small, local producers of food and energy taking the place of Bojangles' restaurants and long-haul trucking. As soon as he said it, the word resonated with me. But what I imagined wasn't Dean's future. I saw the present — a country where so many once-solid things were collapsing. Banks, governments, news organizations, small towns, main streets, shops, factories. You see it visibly all over the country, especially when you leave the prosperous coasts. And you find it across America in the unraveling of the fabric that connects people to one another. In short, "the unwinding" refers to the end of a deal Americans used to have with one another — a social contract.