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5.0 von 5 Sternen You Don't Have to Be an Expert to Appreciate This Book
I'm writing this review for non-sociologists and non-policy experts, for people like me who don't generally curl up with a book of sociology. "Bowling Alone" is an important work because it highlights some very disturbing trends at work in America and suggests some solutions.
Author Robert Putnam measures "social capital," which is simply the...
Veröffentlicht am 30. Juni 2000 von Allen Smalling

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Densely packed but fruitful
Bowling Alone is a pretty weighty tome with an increidble density of facts and figures. Subtitled "The Collapse and Revival of American Community", that fourth word is the only thing that gets you through the first third of the book which is staggeringly depressing. Using a huge variety of cross-referenced statistics normalized for race, income, and...
Veröffentlicht am 17. Juli 2000 von josakana


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5.0 von 5 Sternen You Don't Have to Be an Expert to Appreciate This Book, 30. Juni 2000
I'm writing this review for non-sociologists and non-policy experts, for people like me who don't generally curl up with a book of sociology. "Bowling Alone" is an important work because it highlights some very disturbing trends at work in America and suggests some solutions.
Author Robert Putnam measures "social capital," which is simply the value of people dealing with people--organization and communication, whether it's formal (church council, the PTA), or informal (the neighborhood tavern, the weekly card game). We have suffered a huge drop in such "social capital" over the past 30-35 years; club attendance has fallen by more than half, church attendance is off, home entertaining is off, even card games are off by half. (Yes, there are people who survey for that!)
Why is this important? Because a society that is rich in social capital is healthier, both for the group and for the individual. The states that have the highest club membership and voter turnouts also have the most income equality and the best schools (and those that have the lowest, have the worst). And according to Putnam, "if you decide to join [a group], you can cut your risk of dying over the next year in half." Younger people are demonstrably less social than their grandparents in the World War II generation. They also feel more malaise. Lack of sociability makes people feel worse.
While "Bowling Alone" is a work of academic sociology, with charts and graphs, Putnam makes it as reader-friendly as possible with a good honest prose style and a straightforward presentation. His message deserves to be heard. He also suggests some ways for us to get out of our current blight of social disconnectedness, including a call for the USA to re-live the organizational renaissance we once experienced at the turn of the last century, the Progressive Era, which spawned so many organizations like the Sierra Club, PTA and Girl Scouts that are still with us and going strong.
If you read only one book of sociology this decade, make it "Bowling Alone." The research is astounding, the presentation is great, and the message is one we need to hear.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Densely packed but fruitful, 17. Juli 2000
Bowling Alone is a pretty weighty tome with an increidble density of facts and figures. Subtitled "The Collapse and Revival of American Community", that fourth word is the only thing that gets you through the first third of the book which is staggeringly depressing. Using a huge variety of cross-referenced statistics normalized for race, income, and everything else, Robert D. Putnam, a Hahvahd professor of Public Policy, shows how people are participating less and less in politics, civics, religion, workplace-related social connections, informal social connections, volunteering less, trusting less, and generally meeting with others less.
Section II asks why, looks at changes over generations, blames television and points out that the only factor that is likely to increase a person's social involvement is education. He follows up on the social connections glanced at and questioned at the second of Section I and sums up the reasons for an overwhelming decline in social involvement. Interestingly, he claims the reason for Silicon Valley's greater influence in the world over Boston's Route 128 area is one of greater social capital.
Section III is the kicker though, and the real problem is that you have to wade through 350 pages of dense and depressing graphs and statistics to get to it, but if you didn't then you wouldn't believe the conclusions. People with more social capital are healthier (backed up by a big metric buttload of statistics, summed up as "people who are socially disconnected are between two and five times more likely to die from all causes, compared with matched individuals who have close ties with family, friendsa nd the community."). Then, on a state-by-state basis, he shows the connection between social capital and health, mortality rate, tax evasion, civic equity and income distribution. It's powerful stuff, and a bit overwhelming, but the results are impressive none the less.
His conclusions are simply that we need more social capital, more formal and informal group meetings and time spent with others, and that the net gain as individuals and as a society is enormous. He looks at where that's likely to happen and how: I think that's something that can be read from a business point of view as a very big picture. I think that there is an immediate benefit to any thinking about human resources in any way.
I can't in all conscience recommend that you all read this. It's just too damn dense, too hard and slow to slog through. I'm hoping I'll get around to writing all the pages I dogeared down into a file, as there's some awesome statistics in there: at random, p 212 American adults spend 72 mins driving a day p 321 One half of people get their jobs through a friend or relative p 217 In 1890 the telephone took 67 years to grow from 1% to 75% saturation; in 1948 the television took 7. p 227 85% of adults watch prime-time television; more amazing is that during any given waking hour at least one quarter of adults report some TV viewing.
Highly recommended for our ethnographers. Recommended for those of you who like backing speeches and presentations up with big-picture statistics. A good bathroom read, sort of a social "A Pattern Language."
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Promise of Social Capitalism, 18. Mai 2000
When I first came across the idea that Robert Putnam wrote about in his 1995 article Bowling Alone, I felt like a whole new world and language had been openned up to me. Every thing he writes about in his book is familiar, and yet it is fresh and insightful. The crux of the matter is that our social connectedness is diminishing. Social capital, or the value that exists in the level of trust and reciprocity between individuals, institutions and communities needs to be strengthen. This isn't just about being better people or having a stronger economy. This is about the network of relationships that determine whether a society, both local and national, can meet the challenges of its problems, and thereby sustain a high quality of life.
Putnam's book should be read as an exercise in building social capital. By this I mean, you should distribute it to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and especially elected officials in your community. Then plan to meet and discuss it over lunch or coffee. This book has the potential for being the most significant book on society in a generation. When we scratch our heads and wonder why in the midst of a booming economy, we have such tragic social dysfunction in our society, you can look to Putnam's book as a perspective that offers promise that social capitalism is a signficant aspect of the answer.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen An awfully big axe, 14. Juli 2000
Robert Putnam has gathered more statistics than one would think possible in his effort to prove that communities are under siege in America. Most of these facts boil down to the central conclusion that we go out less often in smaller groups, and when we're out there, we're less civil to each other.
All this does support his point admirably. However, as one willing to concede his point from the very beginning (is anyone out there likely to argue the opposite), I would have been interested in a more detailed and (dare I say it?) more theoretical discussion of causes and implications, beyond the old chestnut that "this Brave New World is changing everything, and it's hard to predict what will come next."
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Highly thought-provoking and highly persuasive, 27. Juli 2000
Von 
P. Meltzer (Wynnewood, PA USA) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
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On the positive side, Putnam's thesis is both important and fascinating. There is a ton of food for thought in this well written, thought-provoking and somewhat depressing scholarly work. Moreover, Putnam backs up his conclusions with solid, nearly overwhelming, evidence. I also thought that Chapter 6 (informal social connections) was particularly interesting because for most Americans, it is these connections that are of most importance. Section III (explaining the dropoff in social interactions) was also particularly excellent. The chapter on technology and mass media contains the most compelling evidence one will ever see for the dangers of television. For these reasons, I would certainly recommend the book to anyone interested in the state of American society, circa 2000. (I wonder what Toqueville would say if he were doing his travels now rather than in the 1830's and 1840's?)
Havis said this, I could not quite bring myself to give the book 5 stars. So much of it was SO dense and statistic-laden that moving through much of the book was like walking through a 2-foot snowdrift--every step a chore. Not all of the book was like this, mind you, but alot of it was. Instead of 400 pages of text and 100 pages of footnotes and appendices, it might have been better if those numbers were reversed.
Finally, I must comment on the many charts in Section 4 which show all of the correlations between levels of social capital in various States and various quality of life measures (health, violence, TV watching, crime, etc.) Based on these charts, if someone were coming to this country for the first time with their family and deciding where to settle, they would be foolish not to settle in one of the Dakotas, which scored first and second on just about every quality of life index. But something must be wrong with this picture. It just isn't too often that you hear people singing the praises of North Dakota or South Dakota as being Nirvana-like places to live (or about people moving there in droves). The same is true for the other states that scored well--e.g. Nebraska, Montana, etc. Maybe the depressing message is that the only way to have high levels of social capital (and all of the posiitve things that go with it) in 21st century America is to live in a place where there is so little going on and where the climate may be lousy, that people are forced to interact with another on a more frequent basis than if one lived in say, San Francisco. If so, that's a real Hobson's choice. You have a choice of living in a place where there is great community life (because there is nothing to do other than community life in that area) or live in place that has many more inherently desirable characteristics and far lower levels of social capital (and all the negatives that go with that). Perhaps it is too stark to present the choice this way, but that certainly seems to be the message to be derived from Putnam's charts.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Putnam And The Flip Side Of McLuhan's Village Prophecy, 3. Juli 2000
Over thirty years ago Marshall McLuhan predicted that the world would inevitably become more like a village. Technological advances promised to bring people separated by long distances closer together. The overlooked logical conclusion, however, of this line of reasoning, was that this expanding village would ultimately devalue relationships primarily premised upon proximity. Our next door neighbors might become less important to us. This rightfully alarms Robert Putnam, and I'm personally relieved that these issues are not being ignored. Yet, unlike Professor Putnam, I believe that the good far outweighs the bad. The tradeoffs seem to be justified. Our current relationships, it can be argued, are becoming more genuine because location is increasingly less important when choosing friends and associates. Also, the clock will not be turned back; this genie will not be put back into the bottle. There may even be something of a "Moore's Law" inexorably pushing us ahead whether we like it or not. Stop the world, I want to get off, is simply not a viable option.
I barely say hello to my neighbors. We don't even know each others' names. Nonetheless, we are polite towards each other and occasionally do favors when one of us is in need. I find nothing awkward or cold regarding this arrangement. We simply have little in common. Do our immediate physical communities inordinately suffer because of these evolving relationships? Or is there a "trickle down" effect rewarding everyone? I adamantly respond that the benefits are enormous if we are truly becoming better people for forming stronger and more enriching relationships. One should not ignore that cold fact that many people in the past lived lives of quiet desperation. You were often stuck in destructive and eviscerating relationships because it was very difficult to travel regularly more than a few miles away from your front door. Human beings usually lived out their complete existence within a 50 miles radius from whence they were born.
I do not wish to take Bob Putnam's concerns lightly. The man is not a Luddite looking for any excuse to mock our new brave world. We must indeed be cautious not to be rude and indifferent towards those sharing our immediate geographical space. I am merely far more optimistic. The human race initially stumbles a bit when confronted by new technology. Eventually, though, we get back on our feet, discuss the problems, and work out a reasonable resolution.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Terrific & Penetrating View At American Loss Of Community!, 30. Juli 2000
Von 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
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It amazes me how often an academic with an important piece of the truth about the nature of contemporary social reality becomes embroiled in an avalanche of escalating public expectations & hyperbole until suddenly he is expected to become a hopped-up social prophet singularly able to explain, detail and unravel the heretofore-mysterious elements of our existential dilemma. Such is the case here with Professor Putnam's provocative findings regarding social disintegration in the America of the '90s.
This is an absorbing book, the result of Putnam's efforts to expand a short article Putnam had written regarding the observable facts of increasing social isolation and personal disconnection within our culture. Here he employs new data substantiating and extending the details of his original thesis, indicating that on almost every measure investigated, individual Americans are less likely to regularly socialize with their peers, becoming more isolated, more fractious, and less friendly to others than they have been in the recent past. The book is written in an engaging way, and entertains and seduces the reader with amusing (as well as frightening) facts and figures regarding the degree of animosity and alienation individual citizens feel.
Of course, it is easy to become so enthralled with reading through the entertaining list of particulars he enumerates than to pay heed to the burgeoning shapes and images lurking beneath the data; i.e., concerned readers should engage themselves in locating all this information usefully within a meaningful social context. Increasing social isolation and the progressive breakdown in what sociologists call social cohesion are not new phenomena, but have been steadily eroding the social fabric and our feelings of connectedness to one another for over a century. In fact, at the turn of the 20th century both Emile Durkheim and Max Weber were warning of the social dangers associated with the rise of a rational, secular and materialistic social milieu. Reading other recent books such as Sales Kirkpatrick's "Rebels Against The Future" or Philip Slater's classic 1970 book "Pursuit of Loneliness" give one a much better grounding in how the degree of social isolation and civil alienation are related to what is happening in the larger social surround individuals find themselves in.
In essence, the kinds of isolation detailed so well in this tome are the result of the long-term corrosive effects of materialism, with concentration on capital acquisition and gaining more wealth and more affluent lifestyles. Indeed, if one reads the recent book "The Overworked American" by Juliet Schor, one gets the distinct impression that many Americans are so focused on "getting ahead' that anything interfering with this obsessive reach for greater material security gets short shrift in contemporary society. There should be no confusion about the nature of the problem that confronts us; we have no community because we have no culture left. The revolution of scientific change and technical innovation has systematically swept away the web of meanings we once had to integrate and make sense of all this. All we really have today is a mutual acquisition society, based primarily on our mutual lust for material goods and minimally constrained by the skeletal rules and regulations civil society sets for the nature of the material quest. This is a terrific book. Read it.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen A Cornucopia -- a mixed bag of fruit, 18. Juni 2000
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Thomas J. Brucia "Tom B" (Houston, TX United States) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
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This book is disturbing. It convincingly demonstrates that webs of relationships have many positive yields - and that is threatening to the "silent majority" of Americans who have been victims of other persons, and who avoid others when possible. This book is filled with graphs and documentation showing (a) the decline in social participation, and (b) the negative outcomes of that slide. Unfortunately, it sometimes is so filled with facts that it is difficult to sort the forest from the trees. The author also freely draws conclusions as he goes (fact-opinion-fact-opinion). His evaluations sometimes seem contradictory. On p. 22 he states "Social capital... can be directed toward malevolent, antisocial purposes." On p. 287 he asks "Does social capital have salutary effects on individuals, communities, or even entire nations? Yes, an impressive and growing body of research suggests that civic connections help make us healthy, wealthy, and wise." This work is riddled with this variety of internal contradiction. But even so, it is a goldmine of information. Those of us who fled to cities to avoid the tight-knit relationships we smothered under in our Pleasantville home towns should read it -- maybe we made a mistake. On the other hand, this work does not make me want to join a church to increase my lifespan, nor to start holding barbecues for people who live in my neighborhood so our crime rate will go down. Other readers may not feel that way....
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Value of Trust and Communication in a Community, 29. Mai 2000
Von 
R. Tomlin "waukegan" (Waukegan, IL United States) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
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The small, midwest city for which I work as a city planner/administrator has experienced a long and steady decline in effective social engagement. The initial temptation among some residents was to assume our situation is unique - that the source for our lack of community is somehow the fault of new residents (largely Latino) or the city administration. To be sure, local government may play a role in this social erosion, but the fact of the matter is that what's at work is a much more widespread erosion of social engagement with our friends, neighbors and coworkers.
This erosion, contends author Robert Putnam, has occurred not just locally, but throughout the country for the last two and a half decades. Mr. Putnam provides a useful overview of the forces at work behind this trend.
After one reading, it is my hope that this book could prove to be a useful tome in re-engaging a more effective community dialog locally. Hopefully, several well-worn copies will circulate throughout the city and provide an academic, but enjoyable basis for learning how to become a community again.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen An inspiring beginning to an important national conversation, 5. Mai 2000
This book will be a fascinating, illuminating, and provocative read for anyone who is interested in the social ties that constitute neighborhood, community and nation. Putnam expands on his earlier article in The American Prospect by looking for confirmation of his hypothesis (Americans have become less connected to social networks than they once were) in virtually every corner of our society. From bowling leagues to the workplace to parenthood to television, this has the potential to be a foundational piece of scholarship in the study of 'social capital.' There is also ample material for critical response -- Putnam makes a number of claims and conclusions that need the clarification of further research. Yet, this is one of the refreshing things about this book -- it invites us into a debate about the state of American communities and provides us with impressive tools and data with which to begin. Disclaimer: This reviewer recently completed a seminar with Putnam, and may therefore be more enthusiastic about the subject than he would expect others to be.
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Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community von Robert D. Putnam (Taschenbuch - 7. August 2001)
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