The upswing How America came together a century ago and how we can do it again

Robert D. Putnam

Book - 2020

"An eminent political scientist's brilliant synthesis of social and political trends over the past century that shows how we have gone from an individualistic society to a more communitarian society and then back again -- and how we can use that experience to overcome once again the individualism that currently weakens our country"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster 2020.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
465 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [351]-445) and index.
ISBN
9781982129149
198212914X
9781982129156
1982129158
Main Author
Robert D. Putnam (author)
Other Authors
Shaylyn Romney Garrett (author)
  • What's past is prologue
  • Economics : the rise and fall of equality
  • Politics : from tribalism to comity and back again
  • Society : between isolation and solidarity
  • Culture : individualism vs. community
  • Race and the American "we"
  • Gender and the American "we"
  • The arc of the twentieth century
  • Drift and mastery.
Review by Booklist Reviews

For readers looking for an impeccably sourced review of the last century's economic divide, Putnam (Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, 2015) and Garrett provide a readable if somewhat statistics-heavy dive into how the U.S. came to be a stark society of haves and have-nots. With the Gilded Age as a starting point, the authors track the ways in which the income gap, among other definers, has narrowed and widened over the past century. There are plenty of historical and cultural touchstones mentioned, from music that narrated our shifting societal positions to the world wars and the civil rights and women's movements. The amount of information is enormous, and, while it is clearly conveyed, often with accompanying graphs, Putnam and Garrett's study should be considered more of a specialized resource than a narrative read. Though not for casual perusal, this will engage serious readers who are curious about the big picture of twentieth-century social economics, and who are in search of a worthy guide to lead them through the data. For those deeply inquisitive individuals, Putnam and Garrett will not disappoint. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The Harvard professor best known for his best-selling, much-debated Bowling Alone again considers America's stretched-to-tearing social fabric, arguing that today's disaffected and self-interested society has a parallel in the Gilded Age of the late 1800s. But as he points out, by the early 1900s Americans were turning toward a more equitable society, and we can do it again. With a 75,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

America's deep-seated divisions were healed in the past and can be again, argues this sweeping and persuasive study. Harvard sociologist Putnam (Bowling Alone) and Aspen Institute strategist Garrett posit a 125-year "I-We-I" arc starting about 1890, during which America, through the Depression, World War II, and the postwar boom, saw a grand upsurge of "we"-centered community spirit, shared economic advancement, social solidarity, and political consensus. Unfortunately, they contend, the upheavals of the 1960s inaugurated a 50-year downswing into the current "I"-centered slough of narcissistic individualism, economic inequality, social isolation, and bitter political polarization. Putnam and Garrett tell this story in lucid prose illustrated with fascinating data on everything from taxes on the rich to marriage rates, the ratio of the words "we" and "I" in books, and the frequency of unusual baby names. While the authors explore possible causes for community unraveling—government policy, conservative backlash, do-your-own-thing liberalism, globalization—they eschew reductionist explanations. Less satisfyingly, they present no solutions besides vaguely reprising the 20th-century Progressive era's mix of idealism and pragmatism. Still, this fresh, ambitious take on America's fraying social fabric will provoke much discussion. (Oct.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"An eminent political scientist's brilliant synthesis of social and political trends over the past century that shows how we have gone from an individualistic society to a more communitarian society and then back again -- and how we can use that experience to overcome once again the individualism that currently weakens our country"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The Harvard political scientist and best-selling author of Bowling Alone analyzes the economic, social and political trends that have transformed America from an individualistic to a communitarian society, and back again, throughout the past century. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From the author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids, a 'sweeping yet remarkably accessible' (The Wall Street Journal) analysis that 'offers superb, often counterintuitive insights' (The New York Times) to demonstrate how we have gone from an individualistic 'I' society to a more communitarian 'We' society and then back again, and how we can learn from that experience to become a stronger, more unified nation.Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism'Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.But we've been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became'slowly, unevenly, but steadily'more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today's disarray.In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an 'I' society to a 'We' society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam's most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.