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(41,524 posts)
Thu Feb 15, 2024, 12:49 PM Feb 2024

'Bowling Alone': Loss of Face-To-Face Social Interaction, Community & Civic Engagement Vital for US Democracy [View all]

(Wiki, Ed.) 🎳 - Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community is a 2000 nonfiction book by Robert D. Putnam. It was developed from his 1995 essay entitled "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital". Putnam surveys the decline of social capital in the US since 1950. He has described the reduction in all the forms of in-person social intercourse upon which Americans used to found, educate, and enrich the fabric of their social lives.

He argues that this undermines the active civic engagement which a strong democracy requires from its citizens.

Putnam discussed ways in which Americans disengaged from community involvement, including decreased voter turnout, attendance at public meetings, service on committees, and work with political parties. Putnam also cited Americans' growing distrust in their government. Putnam accepted the possibility that this could be due to "the long litany of political tragedies and scandals since the 1960s", but believed that this explanation was limited. - Putnam noted the aggregate loss in membership and number of volunteers in many existing civic organizations:

Religious groups (Knights of Columbus, B'nai Brith, etc.), labor unions, parent–teacher associations, Federation of Women's Clubs, League of Women Voters, military veterans' organizations, volunteers with Boy Scouts and the Red Cross, and fraternal organizations (Lions Clubs, Rotary). Putnam used bowling as an example to illustrate this; although the number of people who bowled had increased in the last 20 years, the number of people who bowled in leagues had decreased.

If people bowled alone, they did not participate in the social interaction and civic discussions that might occur in a league environment.

Putnam cites data from the General Social Survey that showed an aggregate decline in membership of traditional civic organizations, supporting his thesis that U.S. social capital had declined. He noted that some groups had grown such as AARP, American Assn. of Retired Persons, the Sierra Club and many mass-member activist groups. But he said that these groups did not tend to foster face-to-face interaction, and were the type where "the only act of membership consists in writing a check for dues or perhaps reading a newsletter." He then asked: "Why is US social capital eroding?" and discussed several possible causes..

.. In One Nation After Trump (2017), authors Mann, Ornstein & Dionne wrote that the decline of social and civic groups was a factor in Trump's election as "many rallied to him out of a yearning for forms of community and solidarity that they sense have been lost."... More,

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