The Decline of Us-ness: Bowling Alone and Dying Alone

Anxious Bench | 1/20/2020 | Staff
Tanya9Tanya9 (Posted by) Level 3 TwentySeventeen/assets/images/default-thumbs/default-img-woman-meditating.jpg

The Economist just published an article that on its surface said nothing about religion or religious trends, but the implications for that topic are huge. Let me put the argument out there for discussion.

The article is called “Free Exchange: Economists Grapple With Rising American Mortality” (January 9, paywalled). The main topic is “deaths of despair,” as “A growing share of middle-aged white Americans, especially those without college degrees, are dying from suicide and drug and alcohol use.” This is a very important topic, which demands discussion: opioid abuse plays a large part in the story. But the column also offers a significant context, citing the work of Robert Putnam. In his 2000 Bowling Alone, Putnam suggested that the US was suffering a long term decline in social capital, which had previously been reflected in the great vigor of civic and community associations, everything from Masonic and fraternal societies to bowling leagues. Lacking those connections, networks, and support systems, Americans slide more to anomie and alienation.

Word - Century - Samuel - Johnson - Man

Let me offer a relevant word here. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson was famously called the most clubbable man in London, meaning he was so sociable, so oriented to social interaction and exchange. Bowling Alone is about the decline of that whole concept of the “clubbable.” We just don’t join clubs any more, and society as a whole suffers.

That argument has acquired a kind of classic status. But now here is the update, which Putnam will expound in a forthcoming book (which I do not yet see showing on Amazon):

Range - Variables - Income - Equality - Collaboration

For a range of variables, including income equality, cross-party political collaboration, labor-union membership, community involvement and marriage rates, there was a rise from the beginning of the 20th century into the 1960s, followed by a plateau and decline. (The same arc is found for the use...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Anxious Bench
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