Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.
But we’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.
A sweeping analysis of economic, social, political, and cultural trends over the past century, The Upswing demonstrates how we have gone from an individualistic “I” society to a more communitarian “We” society and then back again. These lessons of history could not be more relevant today, providing urgent and revelatory insights on how we can once more turn the tide toward “We,” thereby becoming a stronger, more unified nation.
With Robert D. Putnam, bestselling author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids.