‘The most important book in social science for many years’ Paul Collier, TLS Books of the Year
The Upswing is Robert D. Putnam’s brilliant analysis of economic, social, cultural and political trends from the Gilded Age to the present, showing how America went from an individualistic ‘I’ society to a more communitarian ‘We’ society and then back again, and how we can all learn from that experience.
In the late nineteenth century, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarised and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However, as the twentieth century dawned, America became – slowly, unevenly, but steadily – more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society ‘on the upswing,’ more focused on responsibilities to each other and less focused on narrow self-interest. Over the course of the 1960s, however, these trends reversed once again, leading to today’s disarray.
In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, Putnam and Romney Garrett draw on inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, creating once again a society based on community. Engaging, revelatory and timely, this is Putnam’s most ambitious work yet, with a relevance right across the anglophone world. It is an unmissable contribution to the debate about where we want society to go.