by Robert D. Putnam
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From the author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids, a “sweeping yet remarkably accessible” (The Wall Street Journal) analysis that “offers superb, often counterintuitive insights” (The New York Times) to demonstrate how we have gone from an individualistic “I” society to a more communitarian “We” society and then back again, and how we can learn from that experience to become a stronger, more unified nation.
Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.
But we’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.
In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam’s most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.
“Ambitious. . . . Putnam and Garrett are rewriting the political history of the twentieth century here. . . . [A] magnificent and visionary book.” — Win McCormack ― The New Republic
“Good-hearted and sweeping . . . Offers superb, often counterintuitive insights…. Well worth reading for its cornucopia of data and insightful social history.” — Robert Kuttner ― The New York Times
“In a sweeping yet remarkably accessible book, Mr. Putnam and Ms. Garrett provide a crucial missing ingredient in contemporary social commentary: They lay out a sociology of success that, drawing on our history, can help us think concretely about how to enable a revival of American life.” — Yuval Levin ― The Wall Street Journal
“This pivotal moment isn’t just the result of four years of Donald Trump. It’s the culmination of 50 years of social decay. The Upswing, a remarkable new book by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett, puts this situation in stark relief.” — David Brooks
“How did partisanship reach such a pitch that Donald Trump’s tribal appeal easily cancelled doubts about his manifest unfitness for office? And what can Joe Biden do to patch together a frayed nation? The political scientists Robert Putnam, author of the acclaimed Bowling Alone, and Shaylyn Romney Garrett provide a wealth of sociologically grounded answers in The Upswing.” — Colin Kidd ― The Guardian
“Putnam’s historical analysis is illuminating.” — George Packer ― The Atlantic
“Remarkable . . . Despite painting a bleak portrait of recent U.S. history, every shred of data in The Upswing reverberates with the same exhortation: We came together once, and we can do it again . . . An extended call for a new generation totake up the fight.” — James Morone ― Science
“A top-notch addition to the why-America-is-in-such-a-mess genre. . . . A tour de force exploration of why America got better and then went into reverse.” ― Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“America’s deep-seated divisions were healed in the past and can be again, argues this sweeping and persuasive study. . . . This fresh, ambitious take on America’s fraying social fabric will provoke much discussion.” ― Publishers Weekly