A hundred years ago, at the turn of the last century, America's stock of social capital was at an ebb, reduced by urbanization, industrialization, and vast immigration that uprooted Americans from their friends, social institutions, and families, a situation similar to today's. Faced with this challenge, the country righted itself. Within a few decades, a range of organizations was created, from the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and YWCA to Hadassah and the Knights of Columbus and the Urban League. With these and many more cooperative societies we rebuilt our social capital.
We can learn from the experience of those decades, Putnam writes, as we work to rebuild our eroded social capital. It won't happen without the concerted creativity and energy of Americans nationwide.
Like defining works from the past that have endured—such as The Lonely Crowd and The Affluent Society—and like C. Wright Mills, Richard Hofstadter, Betty Friedan, David Riesman, Jane Jacobs, Rachel Carson, and Theodore Roszak, Putnam has identified a central crisis at the heart of our society and suggests what we can do.
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