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Encyclopedia > 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). Robert David Putnam (born January 9, 1941 in Rochester, New York) is a political scientist and professor at Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of Government, well-known for his writings on civic engagement, civil society, and social capital, a concept of which he is probably the leading exponent. ...

In Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (Journal of Democracy [1], 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" (par. 13), but believes that this explanation is limited when viewing it alongside other "trends in civic engagement of a wider sort" (par. 13). Introduction The Journal of Democracy is the worlds leading publication on the theory and practice of democracy. ... Social capital is defined as the value that is created through the application of social networks during non-organizational time. ... 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... The 1960s decade refers to the years from 1960 to 1969, inclusive. ...

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. Civic can refer to multiple things: Civics, the science of comparative government Honda Civic, a small car produced by the Honda Motor Co. ... Bowling ball and two pins Ten-pin bowling lane Bowling is a game in which players attempt to score points by rolling a ball along a flat surface to knock down objects called pins. ...

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). The General Social Survey (GSS) is a means for the collection of data on demographic characteristics and attitudes of residents of the United States. ... Virtual reality (VR) is a technology which allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it a real or imagined one. ...

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. By the mid 20th century humans had achieved a level of technological mastery sufficient to leave the surface of the planet for the first time and explore space. ...


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. [2][3] // The word mythology (Greek: μυθολογία, from μυθος mythos, a story or legend, and λογος logos, an account or speech) literally means the (oral) retelling of myths – stories that a particular culture believes to be true and that use supernatural events or characters to explain the nature of the universe and humanity. ... The 1950s was the decade spanning the years 1950 to 1959. ... The Golden Age by Pietro da Cortona. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... The sign of the headquarters of the National Association Opposed To Woman Suffrage 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... 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. ... The 1920s was a decade sometimes referred to as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, usually applied to America. ...

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 with not adequately defining his terms - one critic referred to Putnam's research and thesis as "sloppy" [4].

See also

Social capital is defined as the value that is created through the application of social networks during non-organizational time. ... BetterTogether:Civic Engagement in America is both a book and website published as an initiative of the Saguaro Seminar conducted at Harvard Universitys John F. Kennedy School of Government. ... 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. ...


  Results from FactBites:
Bowling Alone - definition of Bowling Alone in Encyclopedia (460 words)
In his essay “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital” (Journal of Democracy (http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/), January 1995, Volume 6, Number 1) the author Robert D. Putnam surveys the decline of “social capital” in the United States of America since 1950.
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.
  More results at FactBites »



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