This essay deals with the correlation between a healthy, progressive society and one that is engaged civilly with sociological matters and ties. The statistics expressed in Putnam’s essay show a rather rapid decline in our societies’ civil engagement in the last quarter century. Putnam emphasizes the valiant importance of a strong and active society for growth and development in a democracy.
Without further social development Americans could deteriorate their once strong, socially engaged society down to a individualistic democracy that would shatter our national image.Putnam’s essay is titled, “Bowling Alone”, he gives emphasis, and depth to this title in several different ways throughout his article.
Perhaps, the most interesting and whimsical piece of information that he shares though is a bowling statistic. More contemporary Americans are bowling than ever before in history, although, bowling in organized leagues has plummeted in the last decade. Between 1980 and 1993 the total number of bowlers in America increased by 10 percent, while league bowling decreased by 40 percent.This statistic, that shows the rise of solo bowling threatens the very, livelihood of bowling business proprietors because many of those people who bowl as members of leagues consume three times as much beer and pizza. Common knowledge then comes into play, the profit money in bowling does not derive from the balls and shoes but rather the other expenditures such as, beer and pizza. The broader social significance, in this matter though, however lies in the social communication and conversations that can derive from beer and pizza, as compared to solo bowlers.Putnam offers other information that supports his claim, besides bowling statistics.
In some parts of the essay, he shares that organizational groups, as a whole have experienced a massive decline in new membership, over the last quarter century. Church-related groups are the most common type of organization joined by Americans, women especially. Other examples of popular organizations frequently joined by Americans are, school service groups, sports groups, professional societies, literary groups, labor unions, fraternal groups, and veterans’ groups. All of these organizational groups share one common trait, a decline in new membership.There are consequences that ensue after a society begins, to lose it civilly engaged citizens, for private, less trusting ones. In a survey done, over 35 countries, it shows that social trust and civic engagement are strongly correlated. The greater the amount of associational membership in a society, the more trusting its citizens, are likely to be.
Trust and engagement are two components of the same underlying factor, social capital. America is still ranked relatively high by cross-national standards in both areas of social capital; and its citizens are more trusting and more engaged than people in most other parts of the world, still.What, these trends show in the past quarter- century, however, have placed United States significantly lower in the international rankings of social capital. An alarming possibility that this information provides is in another quarter-century at this rate of change, America could be roughly equivalent to South Korea, Belgium, or Estonia today. Two generations’ decline at the same rate would leave the United States at the level of today’s Chile, Portugal, and Slovenia. Putnam does not offer any concrete solutions to these current trends, but he shares his advice and wisdom on such a complex problem.Giving more responsibility to the institutions that raise our children could be the answer.
Perhaps finding new ways to reach younger generations at a more significant point in childhood could curve this trend. For example, instituting more programs and organizations rather than the typical sports or academic activities, offered. Reshaping the classroom and offering more social progressive classes could play a significant role in instilling a strong social reinforcing importance to a young person. Another possibility for a helpful change in this current trend could be given in a representative media source, for the people, by the people.There is no doubt that our current media today seems to be a giant circus that focuses only on irrelevant issues and seeks only high ratings. Perhaps, a media source that actually is not focused on getting ratings or pushing certain agendas on Americans could be the answer. Most news sources today seem to disinterest many Americans with blown up stories, and each stations political ideologies.
Creating a station with no bias, giving direct information to the people about real issues in this country could generate more interest in our country’s politics.Television has the ability to reach more people than any other source in the world, why not use it to reach the social outcry in America? and be a solution rather than the problem. In conclusion, Putnam’s essay offers a non-bias factual account of a growing problem that future generations may face. There is no clear solution to this debate, what is clear though, however, is the significance of this issue. To solve this, it will take many solutions and variables. Counter trends have shown what lies ahead, new social groups must take the supremacy and give it power.