March 29, 2005

Become a Communitarian

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam

Harvard’s Robert Putnam, is a true Communitarian. In his now classic book Bowling alone, he says that if people are involved in their communities, our society will be "smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy." When people are involved in their community it also makes it a wonderful place to raise young people.

Sadly, his research, based on 500,000 interviews over the last 25 years, indicates we’re all moving… no running in the other direction. He says Americans are more isolated from each other and less engaged in civic life than ever. Try on these findings and see if it fits your experience.

• Since the mid 60s, the number of Americans who reported that they had attended a public meeting or town or school affairs has fallen by more than a third.

• Labor union membership has fallen for three decades.

• The ranks of volunteers for civic organizations has plummeted. In the 70s nearly two-thirds of all Americans attended club meetings, but by the late 90s nearly two-thirds of all Americans never do.

• Involvement in politics has declined and fewer than half the population vote in presidential elections.

• We spend about 35% less time visiting with friends than we did thirty years ago. Leisure activities that involve doing something with someone else, from playing volleyball to playing chamber music, are declining. The premise of his book is that we're even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues.

The burning question is: What might you do support the young people around you… and to become a communitarian?

Click here to order Bowling Alone from Amazon

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