The Upswing

How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again


About The Book

An eminent political scientist’s brilliant analysis of economic, social, and political trends over the past century demonstrating 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 turn the corner towards a stronger, more unified nation, from the author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids.

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 more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, our nation turned another corner, and all of these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, 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 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. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam’s most ambitious 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

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.” —Robert B., VP, Executive Editor, on Turning the Corner

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 16, 2020)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982129149

Browse Related Books

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Robert D. Putnam