Why you should join the Elks Club rather than go to the Health Club
In "Bowling A lone"1, Putnam argues that our democracy is not as good as it once was because there has been a decline in social capital during the past quarter century. Putnam defines social capital to be the "features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit" . 2 There are three questions that must be addressed in evaluating his argument. First, has the quality of our democracy decreased? Since Putnam considers political participation to be an indicator of the quality of our democracy, for him the first question becomes, has the level of political participation fallen? Second, has civic engagement decreased? And finally, is there a link between civic engagement and quality of governance? This paper will argue that the quality of our democracy has decreased and the level of civic engagement has decreased, but that the relationship between them is not at clear as Putnam conceives it. The quality of our democracy has decreased, but the best indicator of this decrease is the way that we participate, rather than the amount that we participate. The way we participate in our political system is closely tied to the way that we participate in non-political social groups.