Item description for Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam...
Overview Shows how changes in work, family structure, women's roles, and other factors have caused people to become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and democratic structures--and how they may reconnect.
Publishers Description Drawing on vast new data that reveal Americans' changing behavior, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures--whether they be PTA, church, or political parties--have disintegrated. Until the publication of this groundbreaking work, no one had so deftly diagnosed the harm that these broken bonds have wreaked on our physical and civic health, nor had anyone exalted their fundamental power in creating a society that is happy, healthy, and safe. Like defining works from the past, such as "The Lonely Crowd" and "The Affluent Society, " and like the works of C. Wright Mills and Betty Friedan, Putnam's "Bowling Alone" has identified a central crisis at the heart of our society and suggests what we can do.
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Studio: Simon & Schuster
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.44" Width: 5.6" Height: 1.35" Weight: 1.1 lbs.
Release Date Aug 7, 2001
Publisher Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0743203046 ISBN13 9780743203043
Availability 0 units.
More About Robert D. Putnam
Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and founder of the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America. He is the author or coauthor of ten previous books. David E. Campbell is the John Cardinal O'Hara, C.S.C. Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame as well as the director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy.
Robert D. Putnam currently resides in Cambridge, in the state of Massachusetts. Robert D. Putnam has an academic affiliation as follows - Harvard University.
Reviews - What do customers think about Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community?
Tons of data seems to miss the point Jun 1, 2008
I admit I didn't finish the book. I was bored by much of it and read parts here and there. But what I looked for and didn't find was what seems to me to be obvious...We're less social because we're more mobile. Corporations shuttle families around the nation so rapidly that after a few generations of this nobody is really part of any community anymore, they're just living/working/earning there. Nobody you grew up with lives near you. You have no reputation to protect. We're a nation of strangers. I think it's less important that people join formal groups and more important that they actually know each other and relate in a way that indicates that the relationship is permanent. But in our mobile society it's not permanent.
I know from being displaced myself that when you move to a new area you don't expect to be in long, you simply do not care about it in the same way as "home". And related to that, the inhabitants there sure do not care for you!
I agree with another review that overcrowding and urbanization may be a part of the problem too. If you're constantly having to deal with crowding on roads and in shops and at events, you may just prefer a nice basement media room to sitting on the porch chatting up neighbors.
Also, if you know you're living with people for the next 40 years, your attitude toward them is quite different than if you're just a transient in their lives for the next year or so. Till you either change jobs, move to another suburb, or retire to where you really want to live. Corporations' needs for workers in different cities force us to either choose financial security or social stability. There is little effort given to ensuring workers can have a career in one city anymore. Even fractional advantages in costs/etc will cause companies to move hundreds of workers. I've been affected by it.
Overall, a very disappointing book that had a good premise but came to the wrong conclusions.
Bawling Alone: Fundamental Flaws Apr 1, 2008
Putnam accurately articulates that odd malaise many boomers deeply feel; loss of "community" (whatever one may take that to mean). He then tangentially reasons that the culprit is "diversity". The fact is that this particular boomer angst is far more the product of population density. In the '50s and '60s (his "Golden Age") solitude was far more easily acquired. Even in urbania, a short walk or a brief drive could deliver the needed dose of peace and quiet that reknits the "ravell'd sleeve of care". No more. Today, we can't get away from the crowd. It is overpopulation that drives us to seek relative social isolation. And whether the crowd looks like we do or not, it is still the crowd.
Putnam commits the endemic error of improperly linking cause and effect. Because the America he bemoans the loss of was whiter and far more insular, he attributes its unfortunate transformation to diversity. Anyone who has studied mammalian behavior will know that once a certain population density is reached, the behaviors that Putnam collectively refers to as "community" drastically decline.
A little dull.... Apr 1, 2008
It's rather drier and more academic than I'd hoped for, though terrifically erudite. It's enormous too. A fascinating subject, and a very important book, but hard to sustain an interest in. Suited to the more academic reader.
A Lonelier Crowd Feb 14, 2008
Robert D. Putnam's BOWLING ALONE provides what is, arguably, the most robust scientific treatment in a single volume of the conversation about friendship and its benefits begun by Aristotle nearly twenty-four centuries ago, a conversation about what has now come to be called "social capital" :
"...how can prosperity be guarded and preserved without friends...And in poverty and in other misfortunes men think friends are the only refuge. It helps the young, too, to keep them from error; it aids older people by ministering to their needs and supplementing the activities that are failing from weakness; those in the prime of life it stimulates to noble action." [And,] "Friendship seems too to hold states together..." (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics).
No less importantly than this Aristotelian connection, Putnam joins earlier 20th Century writers to enlarge Adam Smith's emphasis on the productive effects of `capital.' Smith wrote:
...the produce of a man's own labour can supply but a very small part of his occasional wants. The far greater part of them are supplied by the produce of other men's labour, which he purchases...with the price of the produce of his own...A stock of goods of different kinds, therefore, must be stored up somewhere sufficient to maintain him, and to supply him with the materials and tools of his work... (Introduction to Book II, Wealth of Nations)
BOWLING ALONE demonstrates how this "stock of goods" including the effects of friendship, reciprocity, sympathy, trust, and integrity, become the "materials and tools" fundamental to the health of the community. Thus, emphasizing the productive nature of affiliation, social capital - a smile, a kind word, a helping hand, group participation - gets "saved," in our rolodexes or their hippocampal versions, to be used advantageously another day. Here one notes that, though little emphasized by most contemporary cheerleaders for unfettered Capitalism, Adam Smith, too, emphasized sympathy, rather than petty selfishness, as one of Capitalism's essential ingredients.
Putnam provides a vast array of empirical data documenting the productive effects of friendship and communal action on politics (Chap. 2), community involvement (Chap. 3), religious participation (Chap. 4), workplace association (Chap. 5), informal social activity (Chap. 6) and altruistic activity (Chap. 7). In any of these venues, reciprocity, honesty, and trust compose the yeast for productive social activity (Chap. 8).
Putnam's interpretation of the data convincingly indicates that some generations are equaler than others. Over the half-century leading up to the publication of Putnam's book, the combination of television, suburbanization, the changing nature of work, have been factors in the dwindling of our social "goods." But most significantly, shifts in generational norms (Chaps. 10-15), have resulted in "anticivic contagion," the substantial decline in the activities that generate social capital (Chaps. 2-8), though there are exceptions (Chap. 9). In astonishing geographic detail, Putnam graphs (Figures 80-89) the correlations between social capital and its deficits in American community life, public affairs, volunteerism, sociability and trust (Chaps. 16). These are tied quite demonstrably to costs for education and children's welfare (Chap. 17), safe and productive neighborhoods (Chap. 18), economic prosperity (Chap. 19), health and happiness (Chap 20), and participatory democracy (Chap. 21). In the last two chapters (Chaps. 23, 24) he details what might be done to replenish social capital and "walking the walk" has introduced websites and seminars promoting social capital under the auspices of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Putnam recognizes other earlier uses of the phrase "social capital" with varying degrees of specificity, tracing its earliest use to L. J. Hanifan, a state superintendent of rural schools in 1916:
"good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse...[result in] an accumulation of social capital which may immediately satisfy [the individuals] needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community."
Others who have used the phrase include Jane Jacobs, who applied it to the health of neighborhoods (The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961), and Pierre Bourdieu who emphasized it in the contexts of social competition (The forms of capital. In: John G. Richardson (ed.): Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood Press 1986). But, Putnam goes further than any earlier writer, applying the concept to the communal health of a nation.
The concept of social capital, and particularly Putnam's rendering of it, is not without its critics whose objections are on semantic, philosophical, empirical and policy terms. Andy Blunden objects to its quantification and to the causal ambiguity of correlations that Putnam uses to support his inferences, though I think Putnam does not dismiss the likelihood of hidden variables that might be influencing the more apparent ones. The eminent sociologist Alejandro Portes takes up similar issues (Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology, Annu. Rev. Sociol. 1998. 24:1.24), though, in fairness, his critique was on Putnam's earlier work in this area and BOWLING ALONE effectively addresses some of them. Theda Skocpol tellingly argues that Putnam's approach essentially blames the victim (cf. Unraveling From Above, The American Prospect no. 25 (March-April 1996): 20-25.).
The critiques notwithstanding, Putnam's work has been enormously influential even beyond the halls of academe, insinuating itself into state of the union addresses (Clinton, 1995) and the current presidential campaign (bridging v. bonding capital). For more specifics about how social capital has interrelated effects up and down the conceptual ladder from the genome to community life see A. R. Cellura's The Genomic Environment and Niche-Experience (Cedar Springs Press, 2006).
Remembering De Tocqueville Jan 11, 2008
In reviewing Putnam's work it is important to remember that the discourse about social capital not only educates as to the health of individuals and societies but also as to the health of political systems. De Tocqueville marveled at Americans' as joiners because he correctly theorized that intermediate organizations are crucial for the healthy working of modern democracies. Thus the evidence that Americans are joining fewer organizations should also cause us to question the health of American democracy. The recent acceptance by large swaths of the American public that torture is an acceptable method in defending democracy shows a kind of extremism not far removed from that of Nazi Germany where again intermediate organizations are said to have been were few and opened the way for mass organizations and the state to isolate the individual and place him/her one on one with the demagogue and his mass party. Differences with Germany's case are enormous of course yet evidence that democracy is not in a healthy state should make us ask questions. It is in this light that Putnam's work takes an even greater significance.