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Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam

Comprehensive, thought-provoking, and in-depth analysis on America's declining social engagement. Concisely written, but invites readers to think about multi-dimensional reasons and consequences of community collapse.


"Social capital can thus be simultaneously a "private good" and a "public good." Some of the benefit from an investment in social capital goes to bystanders, while some of the benefit redounds to the immediate interest of the person making the investment" p. 20

"The most powerful strategy for paleometeorologists seeking to assess global climate change is to triangulate among diverse sources of evidence. If pollen counts in polar ice, and the width of southwestern tree rings, and temperature records of the British Admiralty all point in a similar direction, the inference of global warming is stronger than if the cord of evidence has only a single strand. For much the same reason, prudent journalists follow a "two source" rule: Never report anything unless at least two independent sources confirm it" p. 26

"[S]ince the mid-1960s, the weight of the evidence suggests, despite the rapid rise in levels of education Americans have become perhaps 10-15 percent less likely to voice our views publicly by running for office or writing Congress or the local newspaper, 15-20 percent less interested in politics and public affairs, roughly 25 percent less likely to vote, roughly 35 percent less likely to attend public meeting, both partisan and nonpartisan, and roughly 40 percent less engaged in party politics and indeed in political and civic organizations of all sorts. We remain, in short, reasonably well-informed spectators of public affairs, but many fewer of us actually partake in the game" p. 46

"During the last third of the twentieth century formal membership in organizations in general has edged downward by perhaps 10-20 percent. More important, active involvement in clubs and other voluntary associations has collapsed at an astonishing rate, more than halving most indexes of participation within barely a few decades" p. 63

"New forces that might foster socializing in the workplace are counterbalanced by equally new forces that inhibit the types of social ties, durable yet flexible and wide-ranging, that are important to civic life and personal well-being. In addition, for the one American adult in three who is not employed, workplace ties are nonexistent. The workplace is not the salvation for our fraying civil society." p. 92

"We spend less time in conversation over meals, we exchange visits less often, we engage less often in leisure activities that encourage casual social interaction, we spend more time watching (admittedly, some of it in the presence of others) and less time doing." p. 115

"The central exculpatory fact is that civic engagement and social connectedness have diminished almost equally for both women and men, working or not, married or single, financially stressed or financially comfortable." p. 203

"Considered in combination with a score of other factors that predict social participation (including education, generation, gender, region, size of hometown, work obligations, marriage, children, income, financial worries, religiosity, race, geographic mobility, commuting time, homeownership, and more), dependence on television for entertainment is not merely a significant predictor of civic disengagement. It is the single most consistent predictor that I have discovered." p. 230

"Even though there are only twenty-four hours in everyone's day, most forms of social and media participation are positively correlated. People who listen to lots of classical music are more likely, not less likely, than others to attend Club games. People who engage in do-it-yourself projects around the house are more likely than others to play a lot of volleyball and to do more public speaking. Even within demographically matched groups, people who attend more movies also attend more club meetings, more dinner parties, more church services, and more public gatherings, give more blood, and visit with friends more often. More than thirty years ago social psychologist Rolf Metersohn noted this pattern in our leisure activities and dubbed it simply "the more, the more."" p. 237

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