the upswing review

Putnam notes in two nuanced chapters that race and gender don’t quite fit his larger narrative: Black Americans were never welcomed into the overall “we.” Women belonged, mainly as appendages of men. However, for all of its prodigious research coupled with careful qualifications, the book sometimes overgeneralizes. THE UPSWING HOW AMERICA CAME TOGETHER A CENTURY AGO AND HOW WE CAN DO IT AGAIN. Putnam’s tendency to generalize sometimes suggests a misleading symmetry. How did partisanship reach such a pitch that Donald Trump’s tribal appeal easily cancelled doubts about his manifest unfitness for office? It’s fairly common to analyze American society from the 1960s to show a downfall in various measures: social trust, community involvement and countless others. Indeed, Putnam and Garrett perceive a long unobtrusive upswing in the position of women and African Americans before the rights revolution of the 60s. Meanwhile, as many social scientists have demonstrated, mass-membership associations that speak for the nonrich have atrophied. Political science is the study of preference and power. Chapter-based voluntary organisations that involved turning up for meetings and activities gave way to impersonal professionally run non-profits whose Potemkin memberships existed only as mass mailing lists. Both are part of the Trump base. Based on what I know about the Gilded Age: tremendous inequality, racism/social … But this remnant of Tocqueville’s America is limited to the top 1 or 2 percent. The authors believe that the new group loyalties of Republicans and Democrats are only weakly ideological, and are based rather on emotional allegiances of a tribal nature. Putnam’s last chapter, addressing lessons from the past on how we might reclaim a more trusting, community-minded America, is abbreviated, elevated and a little wishful. by Robert D. Putnam with Shaylyn Romney Garrett ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 13, 2020. “Between the mid-1960s and today … we have been experiencing declining economic equality, the deterioration of compromise in the public square, a fraying social fabric and a descent into cultural narcissism.”. Trump lost white males to Biden, but gained surprising proportions of Latinx and African-American voters, and won niche groups such as older Vietnamese-Americans. Progressive sentiments informed the New Deal of Roosevelt’s distant Democrat cousin FDR, but also the politics of mid 20th-century accommodationist Republicans such as Wendell Willkie and Thomas Dewey. Sixties radicals began by pursuing social justice and ended up as culturally insurgent hippies. Not so, insist Putnam and Garrett, for the Reagan counter-revolution turns out to be a “lagging indicator”. The great migration of Blacks northward, beginning during World War I, led to labor shortages in the South and compelled Southern racists to actually deliver something of separate-but-equal. Jared Bernstein, an economist who advises Joe Biden, calls it the “YOYO Economy.” YOYO stands for “You’re on Your Own.” And as Jacob Hacker observed in “The Great Risk Shift,” costs once borne by government or by paternalistic corporations — health coverage, job security, cheap higher education, retirement income — have now been shifted back to individuals. The Upswing proposes another, similar arc and presents it with the sort of ultra-causal verve that the authors elsewhere claim is impossible: this one is “a long arc of increasing solidarity and then increasing individualism” which “had implications for equality, for politics, for social capital, and for culture. Way to Heal the Social Fabric: Don’t Do It Yourself. The good news is that the US has been here before – in the late 19th-century Gilded Age – and successfully pulled itself out of the mire. Millennials and Gen Xers are far more individualist than their boomer parents. The bad news is that we are living through the worst of the downswing, amid gross inequalities, corporate exploitation of the vulnerable and uncompromising hyper-partisanship. Americans participated in huge numbers in chapter-based civic associations, such as the Elks and Rotarians, the Knights of Columbus and African American Prince Hall freemasonry. “The Upswing” … Things started to go awry on a number of fronts from the 1960s. All the graphs broadly conform to a common hump-like pattern: a growing swell over half a century or so of greater social trust, equality, bipartisanship and civic do-gooding peaking around the 1960s – followed by a marked and steady decline in all these criteria in the subsequent 50 years. 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