Current trends in civic engagement in the USA

Renowned Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam spoke with Grattan Cities Program Director Jane-Frances Kelly in front of a packed lecture theatre at Melbourne University.

Professor Putnam, whose book, Bowling Alone, is the definitive work on the decline of social engagement in the United States, spoke on what we can celebrate and lament in modern life: the rise of ethnic intermarriage and decline in residential segregation set against the growing gap in life experience between the wealthy and the poor, for example.

He explained why social isolation was as great a risk factor for premature death as smoking, why the arrival of television in the 1950s was the “death ray” for social interaction, and why September 11 created a surprising resurgence of social engagement among young Americans.

Grattan Institute presented this seminar in association with The United States Studies Centre, and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

Robert Putnam’s profile page at the John F. Kennedy School of Government