Saturday, October 17, 2020

Putnam's "The Upswing" builds on "Bowling Alone"


Yuval Levin reviews another book about communitarianism, “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again”, by Robert Putnam with “social entrepreneur” Shaylayn Romney Garrett, from Simon and Schuster, 465 pages. 

I was not aware that this is a sequel (or perhaps rewritten expansion of) Putnam’s “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community”, a book that I vaguely remember being discussed (2020) but apparently never reviewed and read (when I was living in Minneapolis and still employed by ING-Reliastar, right after Y2K).  It was from the same publisher, but longer.

It was two world wars and depression in between that brought us together, to the point that we could actually fight effectively with a segregated military at D-Day with “the greatest generation”.  That was a paradox that never made much sense in the 1990s when we were debating gays in the military – and I enjoyed being in the thick of it.  We go back to Gary Senise’s performance as “Truman” on HBO.’

The “We” Putnam apparently talks about seemed predicated on hierarchy and legacy tribalism, that could hardly be expected to last.  The best arguments for Civil Rights (and shortly thereafter “gay rights”) were indeed individualistic.


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