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Better Together: Restoring the American Communityby Robert D. Putnam and Lewis Feldstein
Synopses & Reviews
In his acclaimed bestselling book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam described a thirty-year decline in America's social institutions. The book ended with the hope that new forms of social connection might be invented in order to revive our communities.
In Better Together, Putnam and longtime civic activist Lewis Feldstein describe some of the diverse locations and most compelling ways in which civic renewal is taking place today. In response to civic crises and local problems, they say, hardworking, committed people are reweaving the social fabric all across America, often in innovative ways that may turn out to be appropriate for the twenty-first century.
Better Together is a book of stories about people who are building communities to solve specific problems. The examples Putnam and Feldstein describe span the country from big cities such as Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Chicago to the Los Angeles suburbs, small Mississippi and Wisconsin towns, and quiet rural areas. The projects range from the strictly local to that of the men and women of UPS, who cover the nation. Bowling Alone looked at America from a broad and general perspective. Better Together takes us into Catherine Flannery's Roxbury, Massachusetts, living room, a UPS loading dock in Greensboro, North Carolina, a Philadelphia classroom, the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, naval shipyard, and a Bay Area Web site.
We meet activists driven by their visions, each of whom has chosen to succeed by building community: Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley who want paved roads, running water, and decent schools; Harvard University clerical workers searching for respect and improved working conditions; Waupun, Wisconsin, schoolchildren organizing to improve safety at a local railroad crossing; and merchants in Tupelo, Mississippi, joining with farmers to improve their economic status. As the stories in Better Together demonstrate, bringing people together by building on personal relationships remains one of the most effective strategies to enhance America's social health.
"The overarching argument, supported anecdotally rather than statistically, is tentative — something's going on but it's too early to tell how big it might become — but Putnam's reputation will guarantee the book a hearing." Publishers Weekly
"Those who finished Bowling Alone in a spirit of gloom will want to turn to this book for consolation and even hope." Casey Nelson Blake, The Washington Post Book World
"These are not all feel-good stories...but each offers a compelling story of individuals and communities establishing bonds of trust. Readers who enjoyed Bowling Alone will appreciate this inspiring follow-up." Booklist
"[The authors'] research is staggering, but their writing is entirely approachable....If Bowling Alone made readers think, perhaps Better Together will make them act." Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant
"[T]he case studies are a very mixed bag; only some are illuminating and instructive." Sanford D. Horwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
"All of the chapter-length accounts are grounded in brief visits that provide a first-hand sense of how each group operates. The result is a sociologist's travelogue that is far more readable than typical academic writing." Seth Stern, The Christian Science Monitor
In Better Together, Putnam and longtime civil activist Lewis Feldstein describe some of the diverse locations and most compelling ways in which civic renewal is taking place today. In response to civic crises and local problems, they say hardworking, committed people are reweaving the social fabric all across America, often in innovative ways that may turn out to be appropriate for the twenty-first century.
Builds on the hopeful message about civic renewal introduced in Bowling Alone to reveal a dozen places around the country where people are engaging in new forms of social activism and community renewal.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 295-306) and index.
About the Author
Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and founder of the Saguaro Seminar, a program dedicated to fostering civic engagement in America. He is the author or coauthor of ten previous books and is former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Lewis M. Feldstein is president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Feldstein cochaired the Saguaro Seminar, worked with the civil rights movement in Mississippi, was a senior staff member for former New York City mayor John V. Lindsay, and was formerly provost of the Antioch/New England Graduate School. He lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.
Table of Contents
Valley Interfaith: "The Most Dangerous Thing We Do Is Talk to Our Neighbors."
Branch Libraries: The Heartbeat of the Community
The Shipyard Project: Building Bridges with Dance
The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative: Grass roots in the City
The Tupelo Model: Building Community First
Saddleback Church: From Crowd to Congregation
Do Something: Letting Young People Lead
The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers: "The Whole Social Thing"
Experience Corps: Bringing "Old Heads" to the Schools
UPS: Diversity and Cohesion
Craigslist.org: Is Virtual Community Real?
Portland: A Positive Epidemic of Civic Engagement
Conclusion: Making Social Capital Work
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