The Upswing: Book summary and reviews of The Upswing by Robert D. Putnam

The Upswing

How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again

by Robert D. Putnam

The Upswing by Robert D. Putnam X
The Upswing by Robert D. Putnam
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Book Summary

An eminent political scientist's brilliant analysis of economic, social, and political trends over the past century demonstrating how we have gone from an individualistic "I" society to a more communitarian "We" society and then back again, and how we can learn from that experience to become a stronger, more unified nation - from the author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids.

Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.

But we've been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today's disarray.

In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an "I" society to a "We" society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam's most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The narrative is brilliantly argued throughout, although the traditional how-to-fix-it conclusion could use a more specific action plan. A tour de force exploration of why America got better and then went into reverse." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"While the authors explore possible causes for community unraveling...they eschew reductionist explanations. Less satisfyingly, they present no solutions besides vaguely reprising the 20th-century Progressive era's mix of idealism and pragmatism. Still, this fresh, ambitious take on America's fraying social fabric will provoke much discussion." - Publishers Weekly

"An impeccably sourced review of the last century's economic divide." - Booklist

"Ambitious...Putnam and Garrett are rewriting the political history of the twentieth century here...[A] magnificent and visionary book." - The New Republic

"In the most ambitious and compelling of his several exemplary books, Robert Putnam masterfully re-casts the history of our country from the Gilded Age to the present...The Upswing is a singularly illuminating book and a clarion call to action." - David M. Kennedy

"No one understands the United States better than Bob Putnam, and no one else could have written this essential book. The Upswing brings together his vast knowledge, love of data, storytelling ability, and passion. It's an astonishing work that reminds Americans we are a great people, shows us what we can accomplish when we come together, and makes clear that we need to do so again. Now." - Andrew McAfee

"Robert Putnam has long been our indispensable guide to contemporary America. His books on social capital, on religion, and on children are essential reading. The Upswing is another masterpiece; it weaves seemingly unrelated stories into a grand master narrative of the last hundred years. A triumph." - Professor Sir Angus Deaton

The information about The Upswing shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Robert D. Putnam

Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and a former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Nationally honored as a leading humanist and a renowned scientist, he has written fourteen books, including the bestselling Our Kids and Bowling Alone, and has consulted for the last four US Presidents. In 2012, President Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, the nation's highest honor for contributions to the humanities. His research program, the Saguaro Seminar, is dedicated to fostering civic engagement in America.

Shaylyn Romney Garrett is a writer and award-winning social entrepreneur. She is a founding contributor to "Weave: The Social Fabric Project," an Aspen Institute initiative. She also contributed to Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell's American Grace. Shaylyn holds a degree in Government from Harvard University, and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer.

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