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Summary of

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and also Revival that American Community

By Robert D. Putnam

Summary composed by Brett Reeder, conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Putnam, Robert D., 2000, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and also Revival the American Community, Simon & Schuster, brand-new York, NY

Social capital refers to "the connections amongst individuals" social networks and also the norms of reciprocity and also trustworthiness the arise native them." (p 19) lot like the economic ideas of physical and also human capital, the society networks the social funding are thought to have value. Bowling Alone empirically demonstrates a autumn in social capital in contemporary America, identifies the cause and consequences of this drop, and suggests means to boost social funding in the future.

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Though social capital varies across many dimensions, follow to Putnam. The most important difference is in between bridging (inclusive) and also bonding (exclusive) social capital. Bonding social capital networks space inward-looking and also tend to reinforce exclude, identities and also homogenous groups. Instances of together networks encompass ethnic fraternal organizations and also country clubs. ~ above the other hand, bridging social funding networks are outward looking and also include people across "diverse social cleavages." examples of bridging social funding include the civil legal rights movement and also youth company groups.

In general, bonding networks are most helpful when particular reciprocity and mobilizing solidarity is important for "getting by" in oppressive situations. Bridging networks are an excellent for linking to exterior assets and also for info diffusion because that the purpose of "getting ahead" of the condition quo. Together Putnam put it, "bonding social capital constitutes a type of sociological superglue, whereas bridging social resources provides a sociological WD-40" (p 23). While helpful for analytical purposes, this bonding/bridging distinction is no an "either or" category, but is fairly a "more or less" dimension. The is, social resources can (and generally does) exist in both a bonding and a bridging develops simultaneously. Because that example: a black color church might bond individuals based on race and religious belief, however bridge individuals throughout class lines.

Having described what social funding is, Putnam turns his fist to exactly how it has readjusted over time by conducting a meta-analysis that a large body of data from miscellaneous sources. In doing so, he identifies a dominant theme: "For the an initial two-thirds of the twentieth century a powerful tide bore americans into ever deeper engagement in the life of their communities, however a couple of decades ago--silently, there is no warning--that birds reversed and we to be overtaken through a treacherous rip current" (p 27). Thus, social capital increased in the united state until the 1970s and then suddenly decreased right up to the present. This design template is consistent across seven separate actions of society capital, including: political participation, public participation, religious participation, rectal networks, not blocked networks, common trust, and altruism.

Though most measures indicate a far-ranging drop in social resources over the last three decades, Putman identifies 4 exceptions: rise in volunteerism amongst youth, the development in telecommunications, grassroots task among evangelical conservatives, and an increase in self-help support. However, this exceptions do not offset the in its entirety trend, indeed, by basically every conceivable measure, social resources has eroded steadily and sometimes substantially over the past two generations." (p 287)

To recognize why this can be, Putnam looked to check out "whether the declines in civic engagement (social capital) are correlated across time and an are with details social characteristics" (p 185). Once he identified a correlation, he used three additional tests come ensure the validity that potential causal factors. First, every correlations he figured out had to absence spuriousness. Second, the proposed explanatory aspect had to readjust in the relevant way. Finally, the direction that causation (result vs. Cause) to be questioned. Using these standards, Putnam garbage several usual explanations for the contemporary drop in society capital, none of i beg your pardon were uncovered to have had a statistically significant effect. These had educational deficiency, damage of the atom family, race and also racism, big government and the welfare state, and also market economics.

Additionally he figured out four social features that pass his tests of validity: pressure of time and also money, mobility and also sprawl, television, and also generational differences. The lion"s re-publishing (up come 50%) that the adjust in social funding over the critical three years is thought to be attributable to generational differences. Human being born in the 20s and also 30s room significantly an ext socially associated than later generations, mainly as a result of society habits and also values arisen during the "great mid-century cataclysm" or human being War II. Generational differences are likewise synergistic through TV, as various generations have various habits about TV. Together a whole, TV is thought to contribute up come 25%, the pressure of time and also money, about 10%, and also sprawl an additional 10% since it takes more time to get places. Sprawl is hence connected with increasing social segregation, and also it disrupts ar "boundedness". This leaves at least 15% unexplained.

But does the really issue that social capital is declining? Putnam suggests that, indeed, the does, together social capital "has numerous features that aid people translate aspirations into realities." (p 288) Putnam identifies five such features. First, social funding makes collective problems simpler to resolve, as there is less opposition between parties. This results in enhanced social environments, such as much safer and more productive neighborhoods. Second, it makes service transactions easier, because when world trust every other, there is much less of a should spend time and also money enforcing contracts. As a result, financial prosperity boosts generally. Third, social funding widens ours awareness that our common connectivity. This deserve to improve the quality of our civic and democratic institutions. Fourth, it help to increase and speed up the flow of information, which, in turn, improves education and economic production. Finally, social funding improves our health and happiness through both psychological and biological procedures which require human being contact.

Unfortunately the effects of social resources are not constantly positive. Indeed, bonding society capital, in particular, deserve to lead to terrible divisions within and also between cultures as groups construct a collective identity based mainly on exclusion. But the "classical liberal argument" against community (or social resources networks) is that potential to restrict freedom and tolerance. Closely-linked communities (those v high society capital) deserve to restrict individual freedoms v social pressure, especially if tolerance and freedom room not worths of the community. Putnam acknowledges that this deserve to happen, yet it is no an inherent impact of society capital. In fact, he provides proof to the contrary which argues that, "Far from gift incompatible, liberty and fraternity (or bonding society capital) room mutually supportive, and also this continues to be true when we regulate for various other factors" (p 356).

Another argument versus community holds that social funding can encourage inequality through concentrating riches in closeup of the door communities. Again, Putnam acknowledges the this can happen, yet is no a necessary repercussion of ar or social capital. Instead he suggests that while "ocial inequalities may sometimes be installed in social funding ...both across an are and across time, equality and fraternity (bonding social capital) are strongly positively correlated." (p 358-359). Thus, while social resources can, in ~ times, limit freedom, and enhance inequality, it does not inherently do so. Top top the contrary, empirical evidence says that social capital, freedom, and equality room in general, support reinforcing.

But what have the right to we perform to improve our social capital? according to Putnam, us should very first learn from the previous where "lessons have the right to be found in a duration uncannily favor our own" (p 367). The period he is referring to consists of roughly 1870-1915. Throughout this time "dramatic technological, economic, and social adjust rendered obsolete a far-reaching stock of social capital" (p 368) due to industrial revolution, urbanization, and also waves of new immigration. In response, the leaders of the day re-developed social capital with an "extraordinary to explode of social inventiveness and political reform" (p 368), which consisted of the establishing or refurbishing of many of our modern civic organizations such together the boy Scouts, the NRA and also the NAACP.

While the certain reforms of this time period "are no longer appropriate for ours time...the practical, enthusiasm idealism of the era--and its achievements-- should inspire us" (p 401). In this vein, Putnam makes general suggestions in seven "spheres deserving special attention" through the intentionally of encouraging readers to develop contemporary innovative solutions.

First, he suggests educational reforms be undertaken, including improved civics education, fine designed business learning programs, extra curricular activities and smaller schools.He suggests for a an ext family-oriented rectal which enables for the formation of social funding on the job.He motivates further initiatives at new urbanism.He would favor to view religion end up being both much more influential and also at the exact same time much more tolerant.The technologies that reinforce, rather than replace, face-to-face communication should it is in encouraged.Art and culture should become more interactive.Finally, politics requires campaign reforms and a decentralization the power.



In this important book, Putnam demonstrates the social funding increased in between 1900 and also the so late 1960s and then dramatically decreased, largely as a an outcome of generational succession, television, metropolitan sprawl and the boosting pressures that time and money. This has resulted in boost in a range of social problems ranging indigenous ineffective education and learning to economic strain, to social conflict in between individuals as well as groups. The solution to these problems likely rests v re-developing society capital, much like was done in the progressive Era (but with remedies designed for modern America).

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Though not innate to community development, such a project need to take into account the potential the social capital to border liberty and equality. This is specifically true when occurring bonding social capital which is regrettably much simpler to build than bridging social funding as, "Social resources is regularly most easily developed in opposition to something or who else." (p 361) when bonding social capital can aid oppressed people to "get by" through solidarity, bridging social resources is forced to "get ahead" v increased generalised norms that reciprocity. The advancement of innovative creates of together social funding is Putnam"s ultimate an obstacle to the reader.