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Book Spotlight: The Upswing

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again (Simon & Schuster)

By Robert D. Putnam WF ’63 and Shaylyn Romney Garrett
A time when the United States was deeply polarized, highly individualistic, noticeably unequal: that might sound like a description of the present.

But, according to Robert D. Putnam’s new book, we’ve been here before. What began in the Gilded Age of the late 1800s as an “I” mentality began to expand during the 20th century into a “we” mentality. This mentality, which focused on the good of the collective and our responsibilities to our neighbors, was egalitarian, cooperative, and generous. It peaked during the 1960s, Dr. Putnam and his co-author argue, then began a steady decline down the curve—leading us, as a country, back to where we started.

Dr. Putnam gives a “sweeping overview of more than a century of history,” blending analysis of statistics and trends with observations and storytelling. “America’s deep-seated divisions were healed in the past and can be again, argues this sweeping and persuasive study,” wrote Publishers Weekly. “This fresh, ambitious take on America’s fraying social fabric will provoke much discussion.”


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