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Better Together: Restoring the American Community Hardcover – September 2, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Putnam's much praised Bowling Alone put the concept of social capital (social networking) into broad currency by remarking on its growing absence. Now the Harvard prof and fellow public policy expert Feldstein approach the issue from the opposite direction: without suggesting communitarianism is sweeping the nation, they offer a dozen case studies of what groups of varying size have accomplished by cultivating networks of mutual assistance. Examples range from a neighborhood subdivision in Boston to an entire Mississippi county as well as the "virtual community" of Craigslist, an online bulletin board that has become the prime "go-to" source for job and apartment listings in San Francisco and elsewhere. The authors stress the importance of participatory involvement, championing networks that create opportunities for people to find their own public voice rather than relying on organizers to speak for them. Thus, one chapter recounts a New Hampshire public arts project in which townspeople's stories created the structure of an interpretive dance about a local shipyard's history; another chapter has schoolchildren in Wisconsin writing to local and state leaders to propose public improvements. Though each group is, as one person puts it, "recreating our neighborhood into the kind of village we want it to be," the book emphasizes no particular approach, juxtaposing the work of local governments with neighborhood associations and churchgoers with union organizers. The overarching argument, supported anecdotally rather than statistically, is tentative-something's going on but it's too early to tell how big it might become-but Putnam's reputation will guarantee the book a hearing.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Putnam, Harvard professor of public policy, ended his highly acclaimed Bowling Alone (2000) with hints that renewed social activism would soon counteract social alienation in America. In this follow-up, he and his coauthors examine the hopeful signs of reconnection in a variety of organizations, activities, and places demonstrating concerted efforts at reawakening ties between communities and individuals. The authors highlight case studies of building and applying social capital, defined as social networks and mutual assistance. The case studies, based on strong success, longevity, impact, scope, and established reputation, include the rejuvenation of branch libraries in Chicago; an interfaith effort to improve schools in a small Texas town; an arts project recalling the history of a New Hampshire shipyard; and an economic development project in Tupelo, Mississippi. These are not all feel-good stories--some highlight conflict and controversy--but each offers a compelling story of individuals and communities establishing bonds of trust. Readers who enjoyed Bowling Alone will appreciate this inspiring follow-up. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743235460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743235464
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and founder of the Saguaro Seminar, a program dedicated to fostering civic engagement in America. He is the author or coauthor of ten previous books and is former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Cox on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
No matter your interest, religious, political, environment, academic, left, right, or center, if you have interest in seeing things change (or stay the same), Better Together: Restoring the American Community by Robert Putnam and Lewis M. Feldstein, with Don Cohen (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003) is a must read.
Better Together tells the stories of twelve different groups: from a community organization to a church, as well as a dance group and a web site, from a union to a branch library, a Fortune 500 corporation and a neighborhood group, to name a few. The stories hold in common the building up of community, of social capital. It is the best book of general interest that I have read in more than a year.
Putnam addresses a critical aspect of how we are brought together as citizens and neighbors. I cannot stress enough how highly I recommend this book.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Robert Putnam dissected what might be the fraying of American community in "Bowling Alone". Here he and co-authors Lewis Feldstein and Don Cohen look at 12 examples of community.

It's quite interesting to see how, for example, branch libraries became social hubs in Chicago. The vignette of CraigsList is dated only a few years later and, in any event, it is difficult to accept CraigsList as as true example of community. It may have been in its earliest days, but is certainly not now. The depiction of Portland may be a bit blindsided in that Portland's activists seem to be against anything and everything, more like Babbit's than enablers of any kind.

On the whole, though, it's an interesting collection of community endeavors. Not truly a complement to "Bowling Alone", but rather a standalone effort.

Jerry
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Burgundy Damsel VINE VOICE on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
I had hoped to really like this book, because the theme seemed so pertinent and promising. Instead, I was sadly disappointed. It was very much like watching Oprah. Lots of sunny stories about community turnaround, neatly packaged for consumption, with no individual relevance or useful guidelines for reproducing the effect elsewhere. This is not a book about getting to know your neighbors, or building bridges in your community. Whether this is a failing of the book, or just misleading marketing you can decide.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By GTO on November 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Wonderful survey of various US groups that have fostered community over time, by the author of Bowling Alone. Groups range from a community dance project in New Hampshire, to student groups making changes in their Wisconsin town, to the city of Portland, a hotbed of community involvement. Some of the examples of community work better than others, with the New Hampshire dance project and the story of a Chicago branch library both being very moving on a human level. Other selections, such as an inter-faith group in Texas and the history of a union at Harvard are more academic and harder to get invested in. The ultimate message is that community can be built, but communication and some strong leaders need to be in place. One conclusion I would question is that civic community needs government involvement to work. The argument behind this conclusion is not spelled out and the book is full of examples where government was not involved, from Saddleback Church to Craigslist, both in California. We do see examples of government being part of the problem, not being response to student's desires in Wisconsin and limiting growth in Portland through green zone initiatives. Still, an interesting cross-section of community around us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on July 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
My order for the book was processed pretty quickly. As always, Putnam's series are amazing. It is better to read the book after going over his preceding publication - "Bowling Alone."
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By Jennifer on February 18, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
perfect, exactly as stated
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