Putnam decline in social capital : Social Development

Putnam decline in social capital

Declining Social Capital”

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, it was the Americans' propensity for civic association that most impressed him as the key to their unprecedented ability to make democracy work. "Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition, " he observed, "are forever forming associations."

Recently, American social scientists of a neo-Tocquevillean bent have unearthed a wide range of empirical evidence that the quality of public life and the performance of social institutions are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement. Researchers in such fields as education, urban poverty, unemployment, the control of crime and drug abuse, and even health have discovered that successful outcomes are more likely in civically engaged communities.

Social scientists in several fields have recently suggested a common framework for understanding these phenomena, a framework that rests on the concept of social capital. By analogy with notions of physical capital and human capital-tools and training that enhance individual productivity-"social capital" refers to features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.

Whatever Happened to Civic Engagement?

By almost every measure, Americans' direct engagement in politics and government has fallen steadily and sharply over the last generation, despite the fact that average levels of education-the best individual-level predictor of political participation-have risen sharply throughout this period. Consider the well-known decline in turnout in national elections over the last three decades. From a relative high point in the early 1960s, voter turnout had by 1990 declined by nearly a quarter; tens of millions of Americans had forsaken their parents' habitual readiness to engage in the simplest act of citizenship.

It is not just the voting booth that has been increasingly deserted by Americans. A series of identical questions posed by the Roper Organization to national samples 10 times each year over the last two decades reveals that since 1973 the number of Americans who report that "in the past year" they have "attended a public meeting on town or school affairs" has fallen by more than a third (from 22 percent in 1973 to 13 percent in 1993).

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The researchers offer four theories:

by cheaande

The researchers offer four theories:
1) Political Backlash
… young adults, in particular, have turned away from organized religion because they perceive it as deeply entangled with conservative politics and do not want to have any association with it.
2) Delays in Marriage
Aggregated data from Pew Research Center polls [shows] that among adults under 30, married people are more likely to have a religious affiliation than are unmarried people.
3) Broad Social Disengagement
… some observers contend [that there] has been a general decline in “social capital” — a tendency among Americans to live more separate lives and engage in fewer communal activities, famously summed up by Harvard’s Putnam as “bowling alone

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Manifesto of the New Fatherhood  — Esquire
The crisis of income inequality and the decline of social capital are the subjects of wide-ranging, furious debates. The quality of schools is the main subject of almost all local politics. Family structure matters more.

Developing a 'We' Culture  — ChristianityToday.com
The author of "Bowling Alone," the famous 1995 essay on the decline of social capital—our connection to each other through activities and institutions—Putnam converted to Judaism in part because of its strong sense of community.

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