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Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community Hardcover – Jun 1 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684832836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684832838
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #231,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on Feb. 3 2011
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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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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