My city was gone.

Superstar political scientist Robert Putnam (who was a wonderful employer and informal mentor to me, too many years ago) is now writing a book about the economic and social decline of his northern Ohio hometown. He provides a web preview in today’s New York Times. It begins:

My hometown — Port Clinton, Ohio, population 6,050 — was in the 1950s a passable embodiment of the American dream, a place that offered decent opportunity for the children of bankers and factory workers alike.

But a half-century later, wealthy kids park BMW convertibles in the Port Clinton High School lot next to decrepit “junkers” in which homeless classmates live. The American dream has morphed into a split-screen American nightmare. And the story of this small town, and the divergent destinies of its children, turns out to be sadly representative of America….

A previous semi-popular work raised similar themes.