Bowling Alone

Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (1995) is an essay by Robert D. Putnam. Putnam expanded it into the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000, ISBN 0-7432-0304-6).

In Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (Journal of Democracy, January 1995, Volume 6, Number 1) Putnam surveys the decline of "social capital" in the United States of America since 1950, which he feels undermines the active civil engagement a strong democracy requires from its citizens. Putnam discusses ways in which Americans have disengaged from political involvement including decreased voter turnout, public meeting attendance, serving on committees and working with political parties. Putnam also cites Americans' growing distrust in their government. Putnam accepts the possibility that this lack of trust could be attributed to "the long litany of political tragedies and scandals since the 1960s" (see paragraph 13 of the 1995 article), but believes that this explanation is limited when viewing it alongside other "trends in civic engagement of a wider sort" (par. 13).

Putnam notes the aggregate loss in membership of many civic organizations and points out that membership has not migrated to other organizations. To illustrate why the decline in Americans' membership in social organizations is problematic to democracy, Putnam uses bowling as an example. Although the number of people who bowl has increased in the last 20 years, the number of people that bowl in leagues has decreased. Since people bowl alone they do not participate in social interaction and civic discussions that might occur in a league environment.

Putnam then contrasts the countertrends of ever increasing mass-membership organizations, nonprofit organizations and support groups to the data of the General Social Survey. This data shows an aggregate decline in membership of traditional civic organizations, proving his thesis that the social capital of the US has declined. He then asks the obvious question "Why is US social capital eroding?" (par. 35). He believes the "movement of women into the workforce" (par. 36), the "re-potting hypothesis" (par. 37) and other demographic changes have made little impact on the number of individuals engaging in civic associations. Instead, he looks to the technological "individualizing" (par. 39) of our leisure time via television, Internet and eventually "virtual reality helmets" (par.39).

Putnam suggests closer studies of which forms of associations can create the greatest social capital, how various aspects of technology, changes in social equality, and public policy affect social capital. He closes by emphasizing the importance of discovering how the United States could reverse the trend of social capital decay.

Criticism

Putnam has been accused of perpetuating the myth that the 1950s was America's "Golden Age" despite the strife and divisions of that era, as well as problems such as racism and sexism. It has been claimed that Putnam completely ignored existing field studies, most notably the landmark sociological Middletown studies, which during the 1920s raised the same concerns he does today, except the technology being attacked as promoting isolation was radio, instead of television or video games. [1][2]

Likewise, Putnam expresses worries that involvement with "community groups" is in decline. However, in the Middletown studies, researchers noted that traditional neighborly ties were in decline although membership in such community groups was rising, leading to the implication that new forms of social ties emerge which are not immediately visible to the observer.

On the theoretical side, Putnam has come in for criticism on the grounds that his vision of community may offer too great a price in liberty, that it can lead to capture by fringe groups or centralised elites, and that it can actually lead to unaccountable power illegitimately infringing upon the democratic state. In particular, he has been criticized for not adequately defining his terms — one critic associated with the World Bank referred to Putnam's research and thesis as "sloppy".[3]

See also

References

Robert David Putnam (born 1941 in Rochester, New York) is a political scientist and professor at Harvard University. Putnam developed the influential two-level game theory that assumes international agreements will only be successfully brokered if they also result in domestic
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Journal of Democracy is an academic journal founded in 1990 and an official publication of the National Endowment for Democracy. It is devoted to the study of democracy, democratic regimes, and pro-democracy movements throughout the world.
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Social capital, referring to connections within and between social networks, is a core concept in business, economics, organisational behaviour, political science, public health, and sociology.
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Motto
"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
Anthem
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19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1920s  1930s  1940s  - 1950s -  1960s  1970s  1980s
1947 1948 1949 - 1950 - 1951 1952 1953

Year 1950 (MCML
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Democracy describes small number of related forms of government. The fundamental feature is competitive elections. Competitive elections are usually seen to require freedom of speech (especially in political affairs), freedom of the press, and some degree of rule of law.
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Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century

1930s 1940s 1950s - 1960s - 1970s 1980s 1990s
1960 1961 1962 1963 1964
1965 1966 1967 1968 1969

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-

Their 1960s decade refers to the years from 1960 to 1969, inclusive.
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Civic can refer to multiple things:
  • Civics, the science of comparative government
  • Civic engagement, the connection one feels with their larger community
  • Honda Civic, a car produced by the Honda Motor Co.

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Bowling is a sport in which players attempt to score points by rolling a bowling ball along a flat surface in order to knock down objects called pins. There are many forms of bowling, with the earliest dating back to ancient India.
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The General Social Survey (GSS) is a survey used to collect data on demographic characteristics and attitudes of residents of the United States. The survey is conducted face-to-face with an in-person interview by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of
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Television (often abbreviated to TV, T.V., or more recently, tv; sometimes called telly, the tube, boob tube, or idiot box in British English) is a widely used telecommunication system for broadcasting and receiving moving pictures
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Internet is a worldwide, publicly accessible series of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It is a "network of networks" that consists of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and government
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Virtual reality (VR) is a technology which allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it a real or imagined one. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special
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The word mythology (from the Greek μύθολογία mythología, from μυθολογείν mythologein
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worldwide view.


2nd millennium
Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century

1920s 1930s 1940s - 1950s - 1960s 1970s 1980s
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
1955 1956 1957 1958 1959

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- The 1950s
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Golden age stems from Greek mythology. It refers to the highest age in the Greek spectrum of Iron, Bronze, Silver and Golden ages, or to a time in the beginnings of Humanity which was perceived as an ideal state, or utopia, when mankind was pure and immortal.
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Racism has many definitions, the most common and widely accepted being the belief that members of one race are intrinsically superior or inferior to members of other races.
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Sexism is commonly considered to be discrimination and/or hatred against people based on their sex rather than their individual merits, but can also refer to any and all systemic differentiations based on the sex of the individuals.
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The Middletown Studies refer to a classic sociological case study of a city in Indiana, as contained in two books by Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd:
  • Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, published in 1929.

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Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century

1890s 1900s 1910s - 1920s - 1930s 1940s 1950s
1920 1921 1922 1923 1924
1925 1926 1927 1928 1929

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Radio is the wireless transmission of signals, by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space.
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Social capital, referring to connections within and between social networks, is a core concept in business, economics, organisational behaviour, political science, public health, and sociology.
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Community building is a field of practices directed toward the creation or enhancement of community between individuals within a regional area (such as a neighbourhood) or with a common interest. It is sometimes encompassed under the field of community development.
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