Bowling Alone

Topics: Sociology, City, Public transport Pages: 4 (1570 words) Published: April 11, 2006
Robert Putnam's basic thesis is that there is a decline in civic engagement in urban cities. He goes on to explore different probable factors that are causing the decline in civic engagement. First off, he dichotomizes civic engagement into two categories: machers and schmoozers. Machers and schmoozers are people who engage in formal kinds of civic engagement (following politics) and informal kinds of civic engagement (hanging out with friends) respectively. Civic engagement, overall, is on the decline according to Putnam (informal activities in particular, however, are ones that Americans, on average engage in more often). This decline applies to cities because of certain urban characteristics. The city, because of our division of labour, increases our tendency to drop out of community affairs because of busyness. Also, the city's neighbourhoods do not promote togetherness or a distinct "we" feeling because of a city's sheer population to the point that we actually come to view it as a city of strangers (too many to bother making friends with), unlike in the country where your next neighbour will likely be someone you will feel closer to because of time spent together and having no alternative option to socialize with many other people. Also, electronic entertainment (especially TV watching) gives us less incentive to socialize with our neighbours. In sum, these are just some ways his arguments apply to a city.

What this all boils down to is a decline in social capital. Social capital is the investment put into having a social bond with other people (formally or informally), much like money. A decline in social capital means a lack of civic engagement (and even increases the crime rate). Theoretically, we would end up "Bowling Alone" in our urban cities. Evaluation

Putnam claims that formal civic participation can deceivably be on the rise by the number of sheer organizations, but this does not take into account the number of actual active...
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