This controversial and influential article by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam makes the claim that "the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades." His data show that fewer and fewer of us participate in everything from the PTA and the Jaycees to bowling leagues. Why does this matter? Putnam reminds us that Tocqueville, a keen observer of the American scene, and others have viewed direct civic participation as the key to America's "ability to make democracy work." The article also raises the question of what might account for this supposed decline in civic engagement--and what might be done to reverse it. Putnam followed this widely-read article with a fuller treatment of the same themes in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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"Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital," Robert D. Putnam, in Journal of Democracy, vol. 6, no. 1, p. 65-78, 1995
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