Robert D. Putnam Bowling Alone Thesis

Robert D. Putnam Bowling Alone Thesis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the book

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000). In a groundbreaking book based on vast data, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures– and how we may reconnect.

Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.

Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.

America has civicly reinvented itself before — approximately 100 years ago at the turn of the last century. And America can civicly reinvent itself again – find out how and help make it happen at our companion site, BetterTogether.org. an initiative of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

    • Order (or review) the book at Amazon.com. You might want to order for your reading group, book club, class you teach or for your organization.
    • Find information on Prof. Robert D. Putnam
    • Learn about efforts to help Americans reconnect, and how you can get involved, at BetterTogether.org. an initiative of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
    • Access the bibliography for the book.
    • Access the data used in Bowling Alone, along with additional information not found in the book
    • Listen to Prof. Putnam’s interview on NPR’s All Things Considered

Please spread the word:

  • E-mail your friends and colleagues to let them know about the book.
  • Mention the book and this web site in Internet discussions, bulletin boards, and newsletters.
  • Tell practitioners and professors, and teachers to use it in their class or review it in professional publications.
  • Get the book reviewed in your local newspape or community and organizational newsletters.

factoids…

Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.

Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%

Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.

Declining Social Capital: Trends over the last 25 years

Attending Club Meetings
58% drop

Family dinners
43% drop

Having friends over
35% drop

Copyright © 2016 Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.

Social Capital: Historical Perspective from the Progressive Era

Social Capital: Historical Perspective from the Progressive Era

The thesis of Bowling Alone is that a variety of technological, social, and economic changes over the last three decades have “rendered obsolete” a stock of social capital. Shorthand for saying that things like television, two-career family, generational changes have made fewer of us go on picnics, join the Rotary or hang out at the bar.

Approximately one century ago, Americans faced a similar pattern. Rapid industrialization, immigration, and urbanization brought waves of populations from a farm in Appleton Wisconsin to Chicago or from a shetl to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In the process millions of Americans left friends, families and social institutions behind.

What’s amazing about the Progressive Era is that from this civic nadir, Americans were hugely inventive about creating the social institutions to reconnect Americans in their changes circumstances. And the founding dates of most of the civic pillars that endure to this date were founded in a brief several decade period beginning in the late 1800s: from Hasassah to the Boy Scouts to the League of Women Voters to the Rotary to the NAACP. In the process, Americans founded reading groups and playgrounds and kindergardens and settlement houses and so much more.

Chapter 23 of Bowling Alone describes the amazing parallels between the Progressive Era and our current civic predicament and the moving story of civic invention in that period. Putnam focuses on the shortcomings of this period in the hopes that Americans sparking a similar civic resurgence can do so in a way that better fosters a stronger civic America.

factoids…

Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.

Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%

Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.

Declining Social Capital: Trends over the last 25 years

Attending Club Meetings
58% drop

Family dinners
43% drop

Having friends over
35% drop

Copyright © 2016 Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.

Bowling Alone Summary

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 24)

Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, has a Web site at www.BowlingAlone.com. It includes a sidebar illustrating trends that trouble him. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, for example, American attendance at club meetings went down by 58 percent. Family dinners declined by 33 percent. Inviting friends to one’s home decreased by 45 percent. The sidebar supplements those findings by posting two other claims: A ten-minute commute slashes social capital (“features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit”) by 10 percent, but joining a group reduces by half the odds that one will die next year.

Bowling Alone. the best known of Putnam’s several books about contemporary democracy, provides a detailed analysis of American inclinations like those on his home page. The book defends the following thesis: In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a crucial tide turned in the United States. For most of the twentieth century, Americans had been increasingly involved in community life, but that trend reversed in disturbing ways. As Americans pulled apart, community vitality weakened. Putnam analyzes the causes and consequences of this sea change and suggests how to correct its treacherous impact.

Putnam’s Web site contains a link to some of his articles. The most influential, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” appeared in a 1995 issue of the Journal of Democracy. It attracted more popular attention than essays in scholarly journal usually do. The reason was not so much the novelty of Putnam’s thesis—the decline of community life in contemporary American culture is scarcely a new theme—but the fascinating way in which Putnam illustrated his claims by turning to the sport of bowling. The article drew its share of criticism too, for brevity suggested a frail database for its claims. Challenged by the article’s reception, Putnam turned his essay into a prelude to this lengthy book, which incorporates notes, charts, appendices, opinion polls, and interview statistics brimming with information as the author faithfully follows the journalist’s “two source” rule: Report nothing unless the finding is confirmed by at least two independent sources.

Why was bowling so indicative? Updating his 1995 perspective, Putnam’s book contends, first, that among competitive sports in the United States, bowling is the most popular. Its image may not be the most fashionable, but bowling’s solid middle-American character makes its appeal so wide-ranging that more Americans participate in the sport than ever before. This participation, however, contains a striking difference. While the percentage of American bowlers increased by 10 percent between 1980 and 1993, league bowling declined by more than 40 percent. Putnam’s projection is that this rate’s continuation would make league bowling extinct before the year 2010. Putnam acknowledges that Americans, strictly speaking, are not bowling alone. Informal groups are typical, but, comparatively speaking, Americans are bowling alone because informal groups alone cannot replenish social capital.

Social capital is the governing concept in Bowling Alone. which uses American participation in the sport of bowling as an illustrative metaphor for the critical issues that occupy Putnam’s attention. The author differentiates physical, human, and social capital. Physical and human forms of capital, says Putnam, refer to “tools and training,” which are key resources that enable individuals to be productive. Social capital refers to connections, networks, and relations among people, especially when those links are enriched by civic virtue and deepened by reciprocal obligation. None of these forms of capital appears out of the blue. Nor can they be taken for granted. It takes attention, effort, and commitment to provide, grow, and enhance them.

A society that expects to thrive can ill afford to be without sound social capital, for that resource fosters what Putnam calls “sturdy norms of reciprocity.” At the heart of those norms is a sense of mutual trust. Where such trust is found, people can count on each other for help, support, and commitment that encourage and create shared causes. Quoting baseball’s Yogi Berra, Putnam says that the reciprocal features of social capital he has in mind are largely summed up in the adage: “If you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t come to yours.”

Putnam’s analysis of social capital highlights three further points. First, social capital is not unequivocally good. Social networks, even reciprocal obligations, can serve causes that are unjust and destructive. Putnam wants to minimize the forms and functions of social capital that promote “sectarianism, ethnocentrism, corruption” and bolster those that encourage “mutual support, cooperation, trust, institutional effectiveness.” Unfortunately, such concepts and distinctions do not produce an.

(The entire section is 2066 words.)

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