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Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of…
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Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community

by Robert D. Putnam

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I'm doing my best not to hold sundry of Putnam's shortcomings against him: first, there is entirely too much corrobrating evidence and statistical detail on the decline of social capital for readers of a putatively generalist book that wants to change real things in real America (we just want the flashiest factoids, some reassurance that there's more where that came from, and then on to the discussion); second, though it was perhaps inevitable, he misreads the internet as TV 2.0 (it was 2000) and doesn't anticipate the complex effects of social media; third, he has little in the way of prescriptions (though of course neither do I); and there are lesser ones like his failure to consider more than two racial-cultural groups (black and white, of course) and a kind of general tone of bringing dark tidings that just, I dunno, I was 20 in 2000 and I think we were all very aware that neoliberalism was bringing losses of community with the increases in individual consumer/lifestyle freedom, but I guess Putnam was older and writing to many of his generation who perhaps had a bit of false consciousness and were repairing picket fences on the sunny suburb of the heart and not looking around and realizing how dire things had become. Watching "Friends" instead of seeing friends, as one of P's better oneliners goes.

No, I am not going to over-fuss and walk out about these things, because the empirical scholarship is certainly there as a base and then on top of that this is a rallying cry, a histology (back to the last time things got this bad in the US, in the "Gilded Age" of the late 19th century, giving rise to new forms of community action, organization-based dogooderism, etc., in the "Progressive Era" of the early 20th), an etiology (TV is huge, which is why a proper treatment of the lonely crowded internet as a complex development is key; so are commutes; so are women working outside the home … and the book does do a good if perfunctory job reminding us that social capital too has its potential price in social repression a la the 1950s--and if our social capital is rising again now I would say that it is coming with new orthodoxies, no longer fifties monolithic but multiple and parallel as our likeminded communities are), and a polemic on the seriousness of the effects of the loss on our democracy, our economies, our happiness, our schools, our health. It does these things well, and they are important things. It'll be pretty clear to you which parts you can skim. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Dec 13, 2014 |
The present withdrawal of the individual from social organizations now resembles the situation after WW I as depicted in Chapter IX of Eckstein's Rites of Spring, in which he describes veteran's eschewal of social commitments.
  ddonahue | Aug 30, 2014 |
Recommended by Donna Marsh. ;)
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Rife with statistics, which are essential to back up the points Putnam is making. A really valuable study of public disengagement, even if dry at times. ( )
  KatrinkaV | May 2, 2012 |
The breakdown of community is not just a hunch of social commentators, but a socialogical fact with severe consequences. Americans spent about 80 miniutes a day schmoozing with their friends in 1965, but only 57 minutes a day doing this in 1995
  kijabi1 | Dec 31, 2011 |
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''Many Americans continue to claim that we are 'members' of various organizations,'' as Putnam writes, ''but most Americans no longer spend much time in community organizations -- we've stopped doing committee work, stopped serving as officers and stopped going to meetings. And all this despite rapid increases in education that have given more of us than ever before the skills, the resources and the interests that once fostered civic engagement.'
 
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To Ruth Swank Putnam and to the memory of Frank L. Putnam, Louis Werner, and Zelda Wolock Werner, exemplars of the long civic generation
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No one is left from the Glenn Valley, Pennsylvania, Bridge Club who can tell us precisely when or why the group broke up, even though its forty-off members were still playing regularly as recently as 1990, just as they had done for more than half a century.
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ON LOAN TO CHRISTINA KNIGHTEN 7/22/14
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743203046, Paperback)

Few people outside certain scholarly circles had heard the name Robert D. Putnam before 1995. But then this self-described "obscure academic" hit a nerve with a journal article called "Bowling Alone." Suddenly he found himself invited to Camp David, his picture in People magazine, and his thesis at the center of a raging debate. In a nutshell, he argued that civil society was breaking down as Americans became more disconnected from their families, neighbors, communities, and the republic itself. The organizations that gave life to democracy were fraying. Bowling became his driving metaphor. Years ago, he wrote, thousands of people belonged to bowling leagues. Today, however, they're more likely to bowl alone:
Television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, generational changes in values--these and other changes in American society have meant that fewer and fewer of us find that the League of Women Voters, or the United Way, or the Shriners, or the monthly bridge club, or even a Sunday picnic with friends fits the way we have come to live. Our growing social-capital deficit threatens educational performance, safe neighborhoods, equitable tax collection, democratic responsiveness, everyday honesty, and even our health and happiness.
The conclusions reached in the book Bowling Alone rest on a mountain of data gathered by Putnam and a team of researchers since his original essay appeared. Its breadth of information is astounding--yes, he really has statistics showing people are less likely to take Sunday picnics nowadays. Dozens of charts and graphs track everything from trends in PTA participation to the number of times Americans say they give "the finger" to other drivers each year. If nothing else, Bowling Alone is a fascinating collection of factoids. Yet it does seem to provide an explanation for why "we tell pollsters that we wish we lived in a more civil, more trustworthy, more collectively caring community." What's more, writes Putnam, "Americans are right that the bonds of our communities have withered, and we are right to fear that this transformation has very real costs." Putnam takes a stab at suggesting how things might change, but the book's real strength is in its diagnosis rather than its proposed solutions. Bowling Alone won't make Putnam any less controversial, but it may come to be known as a path-breaking work of scholarship, one whose influence has a long reach into the 21st century. --John J. Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:01 -0400)

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"Putnam's work shows how social bonds are the most powerful predictor of life satisfaction. For example, he reports that getting married is the equivalent of quadrupling you income and attending a club meeting regularly is the equivalent of doubling your income. The loss of social capital is felt in critical ways: Communities with less social capital have lower educational performance and more teen pregnancy, child suicide, low birth weight, and prenatal mortailty. Social capital is also a strong predictor of crime rates and other measures of neighborhood quality of life, as it is of our health: In quantitative terms, if you both smoke and belong to no groups, it's a close call as to which is the riskier behavior." --BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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