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Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community Unknown Binding – 2000

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2000)
  • ISBN-10: 0743203046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203043
  • ASIN: B001U8ZF2O
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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366 of 376 people found the following review helpful By Joshua D. Hamilton on July 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Putnam's commentary on modern American life is frightening at best.
I read Putnam's article by the same title in college and it left a lasting imprint because it crystalized my feeling that Americans are no longer involving themselves in civic and community life. His new book expounds on this depressing thesis and explains, in tremendous detail how Americans no longer value civic engagement or regard relationships with neighbors as worthwhile. He cites declines in participation in public clubs such as the Shriners and Elks clubs as well as more informal social gatherings like poker playing and family dinners. Using statistics and time diaries he plots indicators of civic engagement from its peak in the early 1960's and its subsequent decline thereafter. The greatest casualty throughout this transformation is in social capital, a term which predates Putnam and describes the emotional and practical benefits of personal relationship.
Putnam shows that civic clubs that have shown growth in membership since the 1960's have mostly been in massive national organizations whose membership is nothing more than people on mailing lists who pay an annual fee. Furthermore, religious organizations, whose members participate in their communities at greater rates than non church goers, are beginning to change their focus from civic participation to only tending to the needs of their church members.
The affects of this disengagement have impacted our health, democracy and safety.
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121 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm writing this review for non-sociologists and non-policy experts, for people like me who don't generally curl up with a book of sociology. "Bowling Alone" is an important work because it highlights some very disturbing trends at work in America and suggests some solutions.
Author Robert Putnam measures "social capital," which is simply the value of people dealing with people--organization and communication, whether it's formal (church council, the PTA), or informal (the neighborhood tavern, the weekly card game). We have suffered a huge drop in such "social capital" over the past 30-35 years; club attendance has fallen by more than half, church attendance is off, home entertaining is off, even card games are off by half. (Yes, there are people who survey for that!)
Why is this important? Because a society that is rich in social capital is healthier, both for the group and for the individual. The states that have the highest club membership and voter turnouts also have the most income equality and the best schools (and those that have the lowest, have the worst). And according to Putnam, "if you decide to join [a group], you can cut your risk of dying over the next year in half." Younger people are demonstrably less social than their grandparents in the World War II generation. They also feel more malaise. Lack of sociability makes people feel worse.
While "Bowling Alone" is a work of academic sociology, with charts and graphs, Putnam makes it as reader-friendly as possible with a good honest prose style and a straightforward presentation. His message deserves to be heard.
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164 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Ed Brenegar on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I first came across the idea that Robert Putnam wrote about in his 1995 article Bowling Alone, I felt like a whole new world and language had been openned up to me. Every thing he writes about in his book is familiar, and yet it is fresh and insightful. The crux of the matter is that our social connectedness is diminishing. Social capital, or the value that exists in the level of trust and reciprocity between individuals, institutions and communities needs to be strengthen. This isn't just about being better people or having a stronger economy. This is about the network of relationships that determine whether a society, both local and national, can meet the challenges of its problems, and thereby sustain a high quality of life.
Putnam's book should be read as an exercise in building social capital. By this I mean, you should distribute it to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and especially elected officials in your community. Then plan to meet and discuss it over lunch or coffee. This book has the potential for being the most significant book on society in a generation. When we scratch our heads and wonder why in the midst of a booming economy, we have such tragic social dysfunction in our society, you can look to Putnam's book as a perspective that offers promise that social capitalism is a signficant aspect of the answer.
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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful By David Rosenblatt on May 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book will be a fascinating, illuminating, and provocative read for anyone who is interested in the social ties that constitute neighborhood, community and nation. Putnam expands on his earlier article in The American Prospect by looking for confirmation of his hypothesis (Americans have become less connected to social networks than they once were) in virtually every corner of our society. From bowling leagues to the workplace to parenthood to television, this has the potential to be a foundational piece of scholarship in the study of 'social capital.' There is also ample material for critical response -- Putnam makes a number of claims and conclusions that need the clarification of further research. Yet, this is one of the refreshing things about this book -- it invites us into a debate about the state of American communities and provides us with impressive tools and data with which to begin. Disclaimer: This reviewer recently completed a seminar with Putnam, and may therefore be more enthusiastic about the subject than he would expect others to be.
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