Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

submitted as the Email Journal assignment for USP480 class at PSU

Bowling Alone

Bowling Alone: Chapter 1: Thinking about Social Change in America

To the United States, rebuilding social capital is an urgent task. Social capital is a community’s valuable asset that is generated by connecting people in the community. Today, many more people in America disconnect with one another. They tend to prioritize an individual over a community. Many of them don’t involve in both social and political activities with certain degree of commitment to their communities. On the other hand, Americans who were in active during or just after the World War II were well-connected with their friends and neighbors and engaged various civic activities with a sense of obligation or responsibility. That is, in the last several decades of the twentieth century, considerable changes in their society happened. This means that social capital has been considerably eroded during the decades.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 2: Political Participation

Over the past three decades, political participation among American citizens has been changed drastically. For example, over the last thirty-six years, participation in presidential elections has declined by about a quarter. These trends can be found in decline of citizen participation in campaign activities, civic engagement in partisan activities and so on. More youth don’t care of these political activities now. They tend to be a passive stance against politics even though it can be a critical element by which they are greatly influenced.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 3: Civic Participation

Declines in club meeting attendance and organizational activity are also serious. Even though the number of nonprofit organizations has been increased dramatically over this quarter century, the number of membership has not been very increased. Most of all of the organizations are too small to make change. Thus, this trend would not be called as a boom of grassroots participation. Many more members in these organizations might not attend the meetings and even they might not know one another. These trends mean decline of active involvement their communities. Revitalizing an organized community life among people is urgent requirement for Americans to rebuild social capital as well as revitalizing a political life.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 8: Reciprocity, Honesty, and Trust

Social trust is a valuable community asset. That encourages people to more engage in community life with others who trust them. However, today, in many more situations, Americans don’t trust one another anymore. This environment likely generates transaction costs mainly generated in case that people distrust others, for example, costs for security enhancement by increase in crime. Actually, the number of employment in policing and the law soared grew rapidly after 1970. These trends did not necessarily need to be caused because society with social trust would not need much policy or law related forces that force people to pay money as a tax.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 10: Introduction

Americans are less connected one another. Communities they belong to do not work effectively anymore because only a part of the members try to control them personally while the rest of the members don’t care of them. Certainly, informal social connectedness within a community has dramatically declined in almost all cases that include club meeting, visits with friends, committee service, church attendance and so on. These trends can be seen in civil engagement. What is the cause of these trends? That is explained in following some chapters.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 13: Technology and Mass Media

Today, many more Americans spend much time in front of a TV screen passively alone. Especially, younger generations tend to watch a TV programs that were specifically associated with civic disengagement. They don’t read a newspaper far more than people who are in the generation of their grandfather. People who read a newspaper have more civil engagements than people who don’t. Also, people who tend to spend more time to watch TV have less civic engagements than those who don’t. The national decline in social connectedness was caused also by such these technologic advances.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 14: From Generation to Generation

When they were young is one of the important key indicators to know about trends of decline in civic engagement and social capital. Each generation that has reached adulthood since the 1950s has been less responsible for engaging community issues than its immediate predecessor. Actually, the former generations have less real senses of belonging to communities such as neighbors, church, and local communities or groups than the latter ones. Thus, the former generations have not been embedded in community life well. The fact has also been a cause of decline of civic engagement and social capital.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 15: What Killed Civic Engagement? Summing Up

In the section, following four factors were introduced as causes of erosion of civic engagement and social capital over the last several decades. First, the working poor have been increasing. Second, suburbanization, commuting, and sprawl have undermined relationship between people, especially, with neighbors and local communities. Third, the advance of electronic entertainment such as TV and internet has significantly transformed people’s lifestyle. Forth, generational change has been contributing steady decline in civic engagement and social capital.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 16: Introduction

What are the features of social capital generally? First, if people are well-connected one another, they can unite and view as a common problem when they encounter a big problem to be addressed in the community. Second, building consensus would be easier to be made so that the community can advance smoothly. Third, social capital encourages people to be aware that our fates are linked. Fourth, it enables people to share beneficial information because people in community with highly social capital have a lot of personal connections. Finally, social capital improves individuals’ lives through psychological and biological processes.

 

Bowling Alone: Chapter 24: Toward an Agenda for Social Capitalists

There are many proposals with the due of the year of 2010 from the author to ensure Americans reconnect one another and rebuild social capital. These proposals deal with; increasing civic engagement and social capital substantially; transforming current workplace to more family-friendly and community congenial; changing the lifestyle from typical suburban life to one that encourages people not to daily long-distance trip and to have more interactions with neighbors; attending faith-based communities more deeply; stopping to addict TV or internet and to spend much time for them alone and, rather, use these technology to encourage people to more engage for the community; being involved in more cultural festival not with a stance of consumers; and being more involved in public life of our communities.

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