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Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community [Hardcover]

Robert D. Putnam
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
NO ONE IS LEFT from the Glenn Valley, Pennsylvania, Bridge Club who can tell us precisely when or why the group broke up, even though its forty-odd members were still playing regularly as recently as 1990, just as they had done for more than half a century. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Observations, Bad Conclusions July 6 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Putnam's research on the decline of social interaction is extensive, and the book is interesting to read. In Bowling Alone's first nine chapters are graphs showing the chrononical trends for every activity from card-playing to church-going. Putnam shows that Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are significantly less involved in civic activities than their parents and grandparents.
However, while Bowling Alone does a good job illustrating the loss of community involvement, the last fifteen chapters of the book, which discuss the causes of civic disengagement, and how it can be reversed, are seriously wrong. Just to start, Putnam overlooks many of the events of the last forty years. He pejoratively notes that Americans have become more individualist and distrustful of institutions, but he gives little notice to the Vietnam War, Watergate, the failed War on Poverty, and the inummerable political, corporate, and institutional scandals, which have led to this culture of skepticism.
Furthermore, the book ignores the role of centralized government and litigiousness in weakening communities. People are less likely to vote or get involved in political affairs because top-down bureaucratic mandates and endless lawsuits have undermined local democracy. Putnam laments the drop in the number of Americans who vote, attend town meetings, or write to their Congressman, but does not realize that much of this apathy is comes from the fact that many Americans perhaps rightly believe that these activities are a waste of time. Why should a person give up several hours of their time to go to a town meeting when any decision of significance made at the meeting may be overturned by a federal judge or blocked by a Washington bureaucrat?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Positive Networking and Social Capital. Feb. 26 2005
Format:Paperback
Putnam has hit the nail right on the head. Public policy makers world-wide have taken note. His constructs of 'bonding'and 'bridging' to the broader community through social networks to add value, or social capital, to society have gained wide currency. His research is exhaustive, more than necessary perhaps to make the case for disengagement of citizens. But, he has confirmed empirically what so many know intuitively to be true, hence the appeal of his findings. His recent work with John Helliwell published in the 2004 proceedings of the Royal Society on social capital and well-being, reported in the media as the science of happiness and the object in my own work on positive networking, advances the discipline even further. Positive networking works, it takes leadership and, when done right, adds social capital to the community. Putnam's work is compelling. His arguements are powerful...highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time to Reconnect Feb. 3 2011
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
There are some very interesting concepts in Bowling Alone but it suffers from two drawbacks. The first is no fault of its own - a great deal of the content is dated given it is ten years after original publication. The second issue is the very academic language and intellectual jargon that seemed to be trying a tad too hard and was unnecessary as the data and concepts sung loudly. Having just read the more recent books: The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome and The Narcissism Epidemic, it is clear that Bowling Alone was onto something.

I agree that society is disconnecting as families, neighbors, communities morph and change. The author lays blame with television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, and changes in values (imagine what the updated book would say about social media!). This loss of community means an underlying loss of reciprocity. It also means that trust is breaking down because people are not doing things for each other nor developing relationships of meaning or value. This is somewhat explained by the difference in bridging (or inclusive) social capital and bonding (or exclusive) social capital. Reciprocity, honesty and trustworthiness are encouraged by dense social networks and we are not building these anymore.

The section on suburbia grows more relevant. "The suburb is the last word in privatization, perhaps even its lethal consummation and it spells the end of authentic civic life," so wrote Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. More powerfully, urbanist Lewis Mumford said, "suburbia is a collective effort to lead a private life." And Kenneth T. Jackson is even more direct, "There are few places as desolate and lonely as a suburban street on a hot afternoon." The suburbs have contributed to an isolation that includes 72 minutes of commuting each day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An important book worthy of your attention!!!! April 28 2004
Format:Paperback
Robert Putnam has written one of the most important books I have read in a long, long time. When was the last time you called a friend or associate and proposed going out to a ballgame or a show only to be rebuffed because there was a game on TV that night? And how many times has that sort of thing happened to you? "Bowling Alone" discusses the reasons why so many people have become isolated and out of touch with family and friends. The reasons are myriad. Obviously, the aforementioned "boob tube" is a major contributing factor. But as Putnam discusses there are so many more reasons. The go-go 24 hour a day economy has robbed us all of much of our leisure time. And even when we do manage to get some time off everyone else we know is probably working. In addition, our society's seemingly endless quest for "personal fulfillment" has made people withdraw into themselves. Given all of the choices we are now presented with in media and other activities, there are fewer and fewer common experiences we can share at the watercooler.
Putnam also laments the decline of the various fraternal organizations that sprang up in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Groups like the Elks, the Knights of Columbus and the VFW are all struggling to survive. No one joins groups like these anymore and that is really a shame. Our communities are the big losers because the services provided by these organizations have either disappeared or have had to be assumed by the government.
This is an extremely thought provoking book. Putnam certainly diagnoses the problems and offers up some solutions. But these problems are not easily solved. If the events of 9/11 did not wake us all up, then one has to wonder if anything will.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Excellent! In very good condition! Very fast delivery! I'm a satisfied consumer!Excellent! In very good condition! Very fast delivery! I'm a satisfied consumer!Excellent! Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2011 by MaxPero
3.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, if rather dry
Putnam's book presents a detailed look at the decline in overall social participation by Americans over the past half-century. Read more
Published on June 24 2004 by FoxNewsFan
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Up. Get Into It, Get Involved
This is a powerhouse study on a subject that would hardly seem worthy of such attention to many Americans. Read more
Published on April 3 2004 by doomsdayer520
2.0 out of 5 stars Try blaming capitalism instead.
Putnam is correct in noting that Americans are increasingly disconnected and alienated from each other. The same thing is happening in Australia where I live. Read more
Published on March 9 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Directly applicable to the lives of Public Administrators.
The concept of "Social Capital," as it is discussed in Bowling Alone (Putnam 2001) is an attempt to quantify the loss of community connectedness that has been happening over the... Read more
Published on Dec 14 2003 by Steven D. Ward
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't belive the hype
I read this book about 2 years ago for a class. It was just horrible, and I am shocked that smart people can read this and not see it for what it is. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2003 by "briand12345"
5.0 out of 5 stars most important read
I found Bowling Alone to be the most important book I've read in a long time. It gives us an honest but sympathetic portraitof the increasing lonely and unconnected American... Read more
Published on July 27 2003 by Steve Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Ourselves Alone
Robert Putnam's 'Bowling Alone' has emerged as a seminal work on social disengagement. In this groundbreaking study on the strength of American community Putnam investigates the... Read more
Published on March 18 2003 by Andrew Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone home?
Mr. Putnam did a terrific job defining and researching each aspect of why people have become disconnected form their neighborhoods. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2003 by J. Brown
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