Since way back before there really was an official country with all that country-ish activity going on, Americans have been a nation of joiners. Famously, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville wrote all about our unique proclivity to join and start all sorts of clubby stuff—compared to the European masses he was used to, made powerless by all those insufferable kings (he wrote a book about it that a few people read). All that joining continued right up until the 1960’s when, according to renowned Harvard political scientist Dr. Robert Putnam, it all just sort of stopped.
Join or Die, a feature documentary, follows the half-century story of America’s civic unraveling through the journey of legendary social scientist Robert Putnam, whose groundbreaking “Bowling Alone” research into America’s decades-long decline in community connections could hold the answers to our democracy’s present crisis. Join Bob — as well as inspiring groups building community in neighborhoods across the country — as he explores three urgent civic questions: What makes democracy work? Why is American democracy in crisis? And, most importantly… What can we do about it? The answers are surprising, and not-at-all-agonizing as you might have imagined. Learn more about Bob and his movie, and watch the trailer, below. Join or start a club (goshdarnit) here.
Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam is America’s preeminent political scientist — and one of the most widely read and cited social scientists living today. Author of fourteen books, translated into twenty languages, his work focuses on asking big questions about American society and deploying immense, creative studies and analyses to unlock answers.
This fall we met with Dr. Putnam (described as “the poet laureate of civil society”) along with Shaylyn Romney Garrett, his co-author on the book “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again” as a part of our UNUM series, in partnership with Florida Humanities. You can purchase Bowling Alone online here and The Upswing here. And you can watch our conversation here or listen to it on Village SquareCast here.
And all year we’ll be asking you to start a group or join a group about something you love to do or something you care about — with someone who’s at least a little bit different than you.