America’s Tailspin

America’s Tailspin
(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

If ever a book seemed made for its moment, it was The Upswing, by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam with Shaylyn Romney Garrett. Appearing in the midst of the 2020 presidential election campaign and a pandemic whose watchword was “We’re all in this together,” the book is a look back at the last 125 years of American economic, political, social, and cultural history. The authors demonstrate that we are far along the downward slope of an “I-We-I” arc. Inasmuch as the disastrous American response to COVID-19 and the civic strife accelerated (if not instigated) by Donald Trump can both be seen as extensions of the regressive trends Putnam and Garrett demonstrate, the book demands our urgent attention as we try to take our bearings today.

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