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Loose Connections

Loose Connections

Joining Together in America’s Fragmented Communities

Robert Wuthnow

ISBN 9780674045392

Publication date: 07/01/2009

It has become common to lament Americans' tendency to pursue individual interests apart from any institutional association. But to those who charge that Americans are at home watching television rather than getting involved in their communities, Robert Wuthnow answers that while certain kinds of civic engagement may be declining, innovative new forms are taking their place.

Acknowledging that there has been a significant change in group affiliations--away from traditional civic organizations--Wuthnow shows that there has been a corresponding movement toward affiliations that respond to individual needs and collective concerns. Many Americans are finding new and original ways to help one another through short-term task-oriented networks. Some are combining occupational skills with community interests in nonprofit and voluntary associations. Others use communication technologies, such as the World Wide Web, to connect with like-minded people in distant locations. And people are joining less formal associations, such as support groups and lobbying efforts, within their home communities.

People are still connected, but because of the realities of daily life, they form "loose connections." These more fluid groups are better suited to dealing with today's needs than the fraternal orders and ladies' auxiliaries of the past. Wuthnow looks at the challenges that must be faced if these innovative forms of civic involvement are to flourish, and calls for resources to be made available to strengthen the more constructive and civic dimensions of these organizations. This book helps us to understand and encourage the community spirit of today.


  • America has always been a nation of joiners. Loose Connections argues that we still have the habit, and it is a good one, of reaching out and connecting to others in order to participate in the civic life 0f our culture. Wuthnow is an indispensable observer of the American civic and religious scene.

    —Jean Bethke Elshtain, author of Democracy on Trial


  • 2001, Joint winner of the ARNOVA Outstanding Book Award


  • Robert Wuthnow is Gerhard Andlinger Professor of Social Sciences, Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Center for the Study of American Religion, at Princeton University.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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