Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital

Originally published in Journal of Democracy 6 (1), 1995
  • Robert D. Putnam


After briefly explaining why social capital (civil society) is important to democracy, Putnam devotes the bulk of this chapter to demonstrating social capital’s decline in the United States across the last quarter century. (See Putnam 1995 for a similar but more detailed argument.) While he acknowledges that the significance of a few countertrends is difficult to assess without further study, Putnam concludes that crucial factors such as social trust are eroding rapidly in the United States. He offers some possible explanations for this erosion and concludes by outlining the work needed to consider these possibilities more fully.


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  1. Olson, M. 1982. The rise and decline of nations: Economic growth, stagflation, and social rigidities. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Putnam, R. 1993. Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modem Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Tocqueville, A. de. 1969. Democracy in America, edited by J. P. Maier, translated by G. Lawrence. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  4. Wuthnow, R. 1994. Sharing the journey: Support groups and America’s new quest for community. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lane Crothers and Charles Lockhart 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Putnam

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