Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work--but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolizes a significant social change that Robert Putnam has identified in this brilliant volume, which The Economist hailed as "a prodigious achievement."
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.
The lighthearted title made me expect a light read. Could not have been more wrong. This is 400+ Pages of solid data, covering the ongoing deterioration of American social capital. What is fascinating is the constant comparison of various social characteristics (violence, inequality etc) against the social capital of the individual US states. No surprise that Alabama and Mississippi are constantly bottom of the class, but some of the top places are interesting. Scandinavian immigration is a clear winner.
The old English idiom "elephant in the room," meaning an obvious truth that is being ignored or unaddressed, depicts the state of community involvement in America ( and by extension Canada ) in the latter half of the 20th century. Through his insightful book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam explores the decline of civic engagement and social connectedness in modern American society. Putnam uses his work to shed light on reasons for such decline in community involvement and social capital, as well as posits suggestions and strategies for reversing this trend.