25 November 2019



Turning the Corner:  Lessons from America’s I / we / I century

25 NOVEMBER, 20:00
Frans Palm Lecture hall, Tongersestraat 53

Prof. Robert D. Putnam
research Professor of Public Policy

America today is characterized by deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times. But we’ve been here before.
In the late 1800s, during the last Gilded Age, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. In the aftermath of the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century, however, America became—unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on narrower self-interest. As is well-known, over the last half century that broad trend from an “I” society to a “we” society has been interrupted and reversed. America’s challenge today is to turn the corner and regain the spirit of reform of the first Progressive Era.

Robert D. Putnam 
Robert D. Putnam is Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. In 2006, Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world's highest accolade for a political scientist, and in 2012, he received from President Obama the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. The London Sunday Times has called him ‘the most influential academic in the world today.’
He has written fifteen books, translated into twenty languages, including the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, and more recently, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, a groundbreaking examination of the growing opportunity gap.
Putnam is now working on a major empirical project about
Social Change in America, 1900-2020. Studying long-run trends in economic equality, social solidarity, family formation, political comity, public policy, and cultural change.