Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society

By Robert D. Putnam | Go to book overview

2
THE UNITED STATES:
Bridging the Privileged
and the Marginalized?
ROBERT WUTHNOW

According to popular accounts, social capital in the United States has been declining steadily since the 1950s. Having won World War II, then containing Russian aggression, and building new homes in the suburbs that were favorable to child rearing, churchgoing, and community involvement, Americans gradually settled into a complacency that would threaten to undermine the very foundations of their historic democratic freedoms. By the late 1960s, civic-mindedness was already being transformed into self-interestedness: Apart from the few who temporarily became social activists, protesting racism and the war in Vietnam, a generation came of age with little else to think about besides television, themselves, and their personal ambitions. In this view, the decline of social capital was largely a middle-class phenomenon; it characterized all but the older generation, that stalwart cohort who had learned through the trials of World War II to put country first, and it was rooted in suburban sprawl, the demise of the traditional malebreadwinner family, and too much television. But it was mostly a moral problem, a failure on the part of vast numbers of middle-class Americans to turn off their television sets, take their children firmly by the hand, and sign up for memberships at the YMCA, Jaycees, League of Women Voters, PTA, community soccer league, local Methodist church, or whatever other organizations that would have drawn them out of

-59-

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Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Democracies in Flux 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Role of Government and the Distribution of Social Capital 21
  • 2 - Bridging the Privileged and the Marginalized? 59
  • 3 - From Membership to Advocacy 103
  • 4 - Old and New Civic and Social Ties in France 137
  • 5 - The German Case 189
  • 6 - Social Capital in Spain from the 1930s to the 1990s 245
  • 7 - Social Capital in the Social Democratic State 289
  • 8 - Making the Lucky Country 333
  • 9 - Broadening the Basis of Social Capital in Japan 359
  • Conclusion 393
  • Notes 417
  • Contributors 493
  • Index 497
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