An interview with Robert Putnam

I went back to Ohio. But my city was gone.

I interviewed Robert Putnam today over at Vox about Hillary Clinton’s liberal communitarian views. He has been an advisor to several presidents in both parties.

Clinton has noted that Putnam is one of her major influences. As I note at Vox, his recent book Our Kids begins with a poignant account of Putnam’s boyhood home of Port Clinton, Ohio, just east of Toledo. The social and economic challenges facing this former manufacturing hub reflect some of the deepest problems facing America today. For that very reason, Port Clinton is a battleground area within a battleground state that may determine the 2016 election.

Putnam is alarmed about the decline of social ties over the decades, and equally alarmed about the corrosive impact of rising inequality on the life chances of millions of children. Yet he combines that alarm with striking Progressive-era optimism that Americans can be mobilized to address these challenges through both moral appeal and appeal to our enlightened self-interest.

Our kids is not the book-length version of the treatise below. But these could be packaged together in a nice boxed set.

PS–check out page 1 of Putnam’s book and the accompanying footnote…..

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

3 thoughts on “An interview with Robert Putnam”

  1. Rush Limbaugh used to use this song as theme music, maybe because the theme of the loss of a better past and the line about "a government that had no pride" struck him as right-wing sentiments.

  2. Ach, you're making me do *all that work* of clicking a link and reading another site?

    You know, you really don't need to work that hard to sell her here. "Look who she's running against" is sufficient. And is "liberal communitarian" really a thing, even? This is the first time I've heard of her having her own philosophy. Nevertheless, off I go to read it…

    1. I think we're going to need something a leeeetle bit more assertive than just "substantially upgraded assistance to workers who were displaced by trade" … though it would be nice to see that.

      Liberal cosmopolitans? Cheesefest.

      I'm not saying he's wrong but I'd be interested to see data on this increased class segregation thing.

      This individual-v. communitarian thing on the left is interesting but I need more concrete examples. I hope he doesn't just mean neolibs.

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