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.