At the dawn of the 21st century, America faces a civic crisis. Once-commonplace activities such as dinner parties and community arts performances are slowly vanishing from the American landscape. Increasingly, Americans are withdrawing from communal life, choosing to live alone and play alone. No longer participants, we are becoming mere observers of our collective destiny.
Most Americans see no obvious connection between dinner parties and the health of American society and democracy. More worrisome is the fact that many Americans fail to see the connection between political participation and the nation’s well-being. However, without strong habits of social and political participation, the world’s longest and most successful experiment in democracy is at risk of losing the very norms, networks and institutions of civic life that have made us the most emulated and respected nation in history.
What are we losing with the decline of social commitments? What can we do to refocus ourselves on the communal good? Find out in the January/February 2007 issue of Horizons!
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Reprinted from Better Together: Restoring the American Community by Robert D. Putnam and Lewis M. Feldstein, with Don Cohen. Used by permission.
Illustration by Becky Heavner.
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