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About The Book

From the author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids, a “sweeping yet remarkably accessible” (The Wall Street Journal) analysis that “offers superb, often counterintuitive insights” (The New York Times) to demonstrate how we have gone from an individualistic “I” society to a more communitarian “We” society and then back again, and how we can learn from that experience to become a stronger more unified nation.

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.

In a “magnificent and visionary book” (The New Republic) drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws on inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. This is Putnam’s most “remarkable” (Science) work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

About The Author

Photograph by Martha Stewart

Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and a former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Nationally honored as a leading humanist and a renowned scientist, he has written fourteen books, including the bestselling Our Kids and Bowling Alone, and has consulted for the last four US Presidents. In 2012, President Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. His research program, the Saguaro Seminar, is dedicated to fostering civic engagement in America. Visit

About The Reader

Why We Love It

“Bob Putnam is one of the most distinguished political scientists in the country. This book is an extraordinarily ambitious summing up of a century of American history from the point of view of social capital, Bob’s lifelong subject. How we made the transition from a society that was ‘me’ focused to one that was ‘we’ focused and then, alas, back again, is a truly significant piece of our history. We need to know this history if we are to restore our lost social capital and once again become a ‘we’ focused society. I can hardly think of a more important book to publish, which is why I feel so strongly—OK, love—this book.”

—Bob B., VP, Executive Editor, on Upswing

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (October 13, 2020)
  • Runtime: 12 hours and 54 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797101118

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Raves and Reviews

"Narrator Arthur Morey delivers statistical concepts with insightful tonal variations that enhance comprehension and maintain the listener's interest. Robert Putnam posits that the last 120 years of economic history have followed an "I-we-I" trajectory. The Gilded Age was marked by massive inequality and exploitation of workers. Then the New Deal and civil rights shared gains with the masses. Now we're in a new Gilded Age, with a return to inequality and individualism. Morey's clear and appealing performance makes a compelling academic argument into something much more accessible. With droll humor and steady pacing he navigates listeners through evidence found in taxation, unions, education and the like, along with commentary on how unusual baby names and self-love might indicate something telling about our culture today."

– AudioFile Magazine

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