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Authoritarian regimes discour-age civil society because civil society can form the basis of resistance to the government.These governments instill fear and mistrust within their citizens, often turning groups and individuals against one another.For the most part, private activities, not government ones, foster social capital.
For example: a black church may bond individuals based on race and religious belief, but bridge individuals across class lines.
Having described what social capital is, Putnam turns his attention to how it has changed over time by conducting a meta-analysis of a large body of data from various sources.
And his vivid ten-pin metaphor — derived from the observation that “more Americans are bowling today than ever before, but bowling in organized leagues has plummeted” — set off hand-wringing from coast to coast about America’s declining sense of community.
Social capital is the mutual trust and cooperation that arises from the web of connections among people involved in organizations and community groups.
Putnam noticed that bowling leagues had declined significantly in the last few decades of the twentieth century.
People still bowled, but as individuals and informal groups, not as part of a league.
In a civil society, social capital flows easily between people.
Activities that can build social capital include the following: Bowling Alone Robert Putnam’s successful book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2001) put the issue of social capital into the context of popular culture.
This change prompted Putnam to worry that the decline of membership in community groups was eroding America’s social capital.
The book prompted a great deal of debate and some controversy over Putnam’s conclusions that America’s social capital was rapidly declining.