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Bowling Alone


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Robert D. Putnam is the Professor of International Peace at Harvard University. He is the authour of six previous books, and his articles have appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT as well as many other publications.


Putnam (Stanfield Professor of International Peace, Harvard) probes American history to identify, interpret, and weigh the forces influencing the major drop in civic involvement that characterized American society in the last third of the 20th century. Buttressing his arguments with a wide range of resources, references, and statistics from government, academic, and commercial sources, he explores the roles of generational, social, and technological factors as they relate to the dwindling of our nation's social capital. Putnam argues that "[the level of] social connectedness matters to our lives in the most profound way." How to respond to its current nadir? Putnam finds striking parallels between the situation today and the declining levels of social interaction in the late 1800s. He cites the rejuventating waves of change and reform generated during the Progressive Era, which stemmed that earlier decline, and suggests that a comparable burst of social inventiveness and political reform could activate the much-needed rebuilding of civic involvement and social connection in our time. This substantive and stimulating work is highly recommended for academics and a thoughtful general public audience. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/00.]--Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Alan Ehrenhalt The Wall Street Journal A powerful argument...presented in a lucid and readable way.
Alan Ryan The New York Review of Books Rich, dense, thoughtful, fascinating...packed with provocative information about the social and political habits of twentieth-century Americans.
Julia Keller Chicago Tribune A learned and clearly focused snapshot of a crucial moment in American history.
Richard Flacks Los Angeles Times Putnam styles himself as a kind of sociological detective....The reader experiences the suspense that can happen in both detective fiction and science.
Wendy Rahn The Washington Post This is a very important book; it's the de Tocqueville of our generation. And you don't often hear an academic like me say those sorts of things.

"If you don't go to somebody's funeral, they won't come to yours," Yogi Berra once said, neatly articulating the value of social networks. In this alarming and important study, Putnam, a professor of sociology at Harvard, charts the grievous deterioration over the past two generations of the organized ways in which people relate to one another and partake in civil life in the U.S. For example, in 1960, 62.8% of Americans of voting age participated in the presidential election, whereas by 1996, the percentage had slipped to 48.9%. While most Americans still claim a serious "religious commitment," church attendance is down roughly 25%-50% from the 1950s, and the number of Americans who attended public meetings of any kind dropped 40% between 1973 and 1994. Even the once stable norm of community life has shifted: one in five Americans moves once a year, while two in five expect to move in five years. Putnam claims that this has created a U.S. population that is increasingly isolated and less empathetic toward its fellow citizens, that is often angrier and less willing to unite in communities or as a nation. Marshaling a plentiful array of facts, figures, charts and survey results, Putnam delivers his message with verve and clarity. He concludes his analysis with a concise set of potential solutions, such as educational programs, work-based initiatives and funded community-service programs, offering a ray of hope in what he perceives to be a dire situation. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. 3-city tour; 20-city radio satellite tour. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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