Are we 'bowling alone'—and does it matter?

The decline of civic engagement

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert D. Putnam. Simon & Schuster, 544 pp., $26.00.

The phrase “bowling alone”—the title of an article Robert Putnam published in 1995 in a relatively obscure academic journal—quickly became shorthand for the arresting claim that civic engagement is in decline. Putnam’s point was that though we may be bowling as much as we used to, we are much less likely to be doing it in organized leagues. The article did not, of course, rest mainly on bowling statistics. It pointed to evidence of declining participation in a variety of civic arenas—politics, churches, labor unions, parent-teacher organizations and fraternal organizations.

 

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