The Strange Disappearance Of Civic America Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: America, United States, Media, Society, Television, People, Politics, Time

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/01

Summary of the article:

The article is about the sudden disappearance of civic engagement by the American population. The author observes that the features of social life networks are quickly disappearing from the American society. The civic engagements that enabled people to work together in pursuit of common societal objectives have been disappearing fast (Putman, 2015). The author uses the term civic engagements to refer to refer not only to the people’s political lives but also to their engagement with their community. One of the main reasons why this is happening is the difference between generations. Old Americans who came of age in the years of the great depression and World War II are more engaged with the activities in their societies than the younger generations. Putman uses evidence from several independent sources to show evidence that there is a decline of civic and social capital engagements. The sources include the General Social Survey that has reported a drop of one quarter in group memberships since the year 1974. GSS also reports a decrease in trust in many social institutions and political authorities (Putman, 2015). Since the 1960s, church attendance has also decreased by 15% and has remained that way. According to Putman, there are many possible answers to this trend. They include economic hard times, time pressure, suburbanization, residential mobility, employment of women, disruption of family ties, changes in the structure of the economy, civil rights revolution and the events of the 1960s. Robert D. Putman puts it forward that education has greatly contributed to the trend. After evaluating all the probable reasons for the trend, Robert Putman concludes that the culprit to be blamed is television. The average American watches television for four hours in a day without including the periods when the television is playing in the background. 40% of an average American’s free time is spent watching television. Television has therefore stolen precious free time from the average American leading to a breakdown in the American civil structures.

The main points of the essay

The main point of the essay is that the American society is losing its civic structures. The following reasons have been explored as the probable causes:

Residential mobility

Time pressure
Economic hard times
Movement of women into employment
Disruption of family ties
Change in the structure of the economy
Events that took place in the sixties
Civil rights revolution
Growth of welfare state
Growth of the television and other technological changes
Evidence provided
The kind of evidence that is provided by the author to support the arguments is from various sources like the General Social Survey. The reports from GSS show that there has been a serious breakdown in the American civil structure. Movement of women into the employment world, development of the television, economic hard times and time pressure are some pieces of evidence that have been used.


Unsolved mysteries: The Tocqueville files
In the article, Theda recognizes the primacy of the civil structure. The civil structure is not dyingb as Putman suggests. The government has actually realized that civil structures are reliable structures and Ariana Huffington applauds the fact that we are living at a time when people from across the political spectrum are recognizing the primacy of the civil society (Theda, 2015). The civil society can be left to perform functions that were previously performed by the civil society. Theda observes that civic responsibility would reduce the roles of the National government. The article disagrees with Putman’s idea that the Civil society in America is disappearing. He says that Americans are more likely to join voluntary oprganizations and churches more than the citizens of any other country. Theda says that in his research, Putman only looks at disconnected individuals. He says that Putman has largely ignored organizational and cross- class dynamics through which civil associations form. Theda further disagrees with Putman’s idea that the sixties contributed to the disappearance of civil America. Theda does not agree that the cultural splits between the young and the old that happened in the 60s are responsible for the disappearance of civil America. Theda wonders why dint the new locally rooted federations that emerged in the 1960s replace those which started fading in the 1960s. He agrees that to some extent they did for example in the environmental movement. However, the new federations failed to grow enough such that they could carry on with the traditional organization of the Elks, PTA and the American Legion (Theda, 2015). Romantic constructions of Tocqueville propose that voluntary groups of people normally begin from below. They are developed by people who wish to get things done out of the government. In the later 19th Century, there was a fresh wave of voluntary groups’ formation in the United States. Three tiered federations at National, State and local levels were formed. The civil war promoted good ties between local and central groups and elites (Theda, 2015). The article ends by relooking at the civic decline. From the 1960s it is observed that the mechanics of elections in the United States changed greatly. Voters could not be mobilized through organizations that were locally rooted. This fact paved way for television advertising and focus groups. The number of lobbying groups exploded.

Main points of the essay

The main point of the essay is that the Amrican tioe that binds them to the society has not disappeared as Putman says. There has been some drift from local face to face meetings in community organizations to technological devices like the television. However, this does not mean that the American civil structure has disappeared as supported by the fact that Americans are always ready to join voluntary organizations more than any other group of people.


Theda concludes that there has been a shift in how people relate. The traditional meetings in the society have been replaced by technology. The television and other communication devices in technology are used more. However, the ties that bind Americans to their society have not been broken.
My preferred author is Theda. His approach towards the issue is sober minded and it considers all members of the society. He is right when he says that Putman only considered the disconnected members in the society. Putman has ignored the fact that the television and other pieces of technology are powerful means of communicating to the people as compared to traditional methods. He only views it as a tool that has been only used to destroy the American civil system. Theda approaches the issue more logically without bias. It is for these reasons that he is my preferred author.

Works cited

Schumaker, Paul. The Political Theory Reader. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.
"The Strange Disappearance of Civic America." The American Prospect. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. <>.
"Unsolved Mysteries: The Tocqueville Files." The American Prospect. Web. 28 Feb. 2015. <>.

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The Strange Disappearance Of Civic America Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 01, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2022.

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