Just a quick one again to recommend a book. Been around for a few years but I’ve just got to it.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam explores and popularises the idea of social capital – the inherent value of social networks.

At first (like so much in this field) this sounds like a slightly abstract idea. But as I understand it, social capital is what gives a community its capacity for members to to identify with each other, build on successes or deal with problems – its social resilience and adaptability. The links and networks that they form are what gives people the support to go on through a bad time – or the human resources to mount a campaign.

Putnam explores the decline in numbers of people voting, campaigning or running for office, and in the numbers of people actively participating in local clubs and societies (as distinct from the model of signing up to a mass-membership national pressure group, which is becoming increasingly common) in the US. What implications might this have? Is it true that people nowadays are still ‘joiners’, just in a different way? What impact has the e-democracy concept had, if any?

Bowling Alone is impassioned and well-written whilst still being robust in its research (and, importantly, honest when there are doubts!) I recommend it not just because it’s interesting in itself, but also because it’s very possibly a beneficial new angle on some other problem or cause you might be working on.

Bowling Alone cover