Today we finish up our online reading of Robert Putnam’s new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.
The book’s final chapter reflects on the problems diagnosed so far, and asks simply, classically, “What is to be Done?” As with previous chapters I’ll summarize its content, then offer some reflections, followed by questions. There’s also a PS on this reading process.
The chapter begins by quickly summarizing the book so far, then extrapolating from those points. Increasing inequality may actually cost the American economy, in terms of opportunities lost (231-4). On top of that, the widening class gap may lead to decreasing political participation and civic engagement, which could further split the classes (234-7). Which would then become intergenerational – in other words,
Inherited political inequality brings us uncomfortably close to the political regime against which the American Revolution was fought. (237)
Perhaps things will get worse still. Putnam evokes demagogues and fascism, linking civic disengagement to totalitarianism via Hannah Arendt (239-40).
So what is to be done? Our Kids wants national experimentation with local variations, sounding like FDR’s early New Deal but referencing instead the prior Progressive Era (243-4). Details: Continue reading