Members in the Media
From: The Atlantic

Why Americans Suddenly Stopped Hanging Out

In its earliest decades, the United States was celebrated for its citizens’ extroversion. Americans weren’t just setting out to build new churches and new cities. Their associations were, as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “of a thousand different types … religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute.” Americans seemed adept at forming social groups: political associations, labor unions, local memberships. It was as if the continent itself had imbued its residents with a vibrant social metabolism—a verve for getting out and hanging out. “Nothing, in my view,” de Tocqueville wrote, “deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America.”

Something’s changed in the past few decades. After the 1970s, American dynamism declined. Americans moved less from place to place. They stopped showing up at their churches and temples. In the 1990s, the sociologist Robert Putnam recognized that America’s social metabolism was slowing down. In the book Bowling Alone, he gathered reams of statistical evidence to prove that America’s penchant for starting and joining associations appeared to be in free fall. Book clubs and bowling leagues were going bust.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): The Atlantic

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