Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community | Study Guide

Robert Putnam

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Course Hero, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community Study Guide," February 6, 2018, accessed July 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bowling-Alone-The-Collapse-and-Revival-of-American-Community/.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community | Section 5, Chapter 24 : What Is to Be Done? (Toward an Agenda for Social Capitalists) | Summary

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Summary

In his final chapter, Putnam outlines his recommendations for the future. He notes that his book up to this point has been focused on naming the problem we face: lack of social capital, with all its related issues.

Now, however, Putnam says "we need to create new structures and policies ... to facilitate renewed civic engagement." The difficulty, however, is actions by individuals are unlikely to have significant positive impacts. After all, social capital is all about participation, not entrepreneurial action.

He recommends a number of general solutions to the problem, specifically

  • engaging children and youth in civic activities such as volunteerism and extracurricular activities;
  • making the workplace more "family-friendly and community-congenial, so that American workers will be enabled to replenish our stocks of social capital";
  • planning communities that encourage social engagement so that "Americans will spend less time traveling and more time connecting with our neighbors";
  • supporting faith-based communities so that "Americans will be more deeply engaged ... in one or another spiritual community of meaning, while ... becoming more tolerant ... of other Americans";
  • finding ways to help Americans to avoid "sitting passively alone in front of glowing screens and more time in active connection with ... fellow citizens";
  • bridging social communities to "connect with people unlike ourselves" through activities such as sports and the arts; and
  • encouraging more Americans to participate in the political process by "running for office, attending public meetings, serving on committees ... and even voting."

He concludes the chapter by saying "we should do this, ironically, not because it will be good for America—though it will be—but because it will be good for us."

Analysis

Putnam lays out an ambitious agenda for America in his last chapter. But, while he provides an overview of each area in which he hopes to see growth, he doesn't provide a blueprint for action. Instead, he hopes his book and his suggestions inspire action.

Since the publication of the book in 2000, a few of Putnam's recommendations have actually come to pass. In particular, Americans now use technology in a much more participatory way. The Internet and social media have become tools for making connections ranging from romantic partners to social and support groups to political-action groups. Blogs and other online publishing opportunities allow many more people to interact on a regular basis with specific goals in mind. Online gaming is much more social. The lowered cost of online publishing, video streaming, app development, and game development have made it easier for more Americans to share their products and ideas.

Several other types of social events and experiences have also gained momentum.

  • "Cons" (conventions) for people interested in comics, manga, science fiction, and technology have become far more popular among the general public.
  • The "Maker" movement has expanded, with Maker Faires and similar events occurring in an increasing number of communities.
  • Churches have, increasingly, become social centers, offering a wide range of activities and groups for members of all ages.
  • The "foodie" movement has resulted in an explosion of restaurants and culinary interest groups in some parts of the country.
While these changes are positive in the sense that they increase social capital and, in some cases, bridge social "silos," it is not yet clear what impact they will have in the long run. Since writing Bowling Alone, Putnam has written several books exploring changes in the 21st century and investigating the attitudes and activities of Gen X'ers and millennials as they move through adulthood.
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