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Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital

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Volunteerism in Communities Fellowship, neighbors, and solidarity are just a few of the words that come to mind when thinking about community. Communities thrive on togetherness and support, and the best way to ensure the flourishing of these concepts is to get involved within the neighborhoods, towns, or communities that we live in. In his writing, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital”, Robert Putnam discusses the connection between social capital and community engagement. Putnam defines social capital as, “…features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefits” (Putnam 182). He addresses the idea that community engagement is vital in increasing…show more content…
These critics argue that volunteer work is the government’s disguised attempt to lessen their responsibilities within communities (412). To combat this argument Dunlap and Stukas suggest, “Such criticism often fails to recognize that, in many cases, community involvement can provide tangible benefits for the individuals, communities, and societies…” (413). When everyone works together for the common good of the community, everyone benefits from this; the individual, the community, and the society. Not only does the engagement within the community build the social capital, but it also builds trust amongst the neighbors. When there is trust, there is fellowship, and fellowship paves the path to flourishment. The authors also point out that the government is already searching for ways to diminish their role in the social services they provide, regardless if there are volunteer organizations in place or not. Therefore, volunteer work allows communities to be self-sufficient, despite continued government assistance or lack thereof (413). Another critic brought to light that forcing people to engage in volunteer work may reduce intrinsic motivation to participate in community service in the future. However, just as the authors say, involving the free choice of the participants to partake in the classes…show more content…
There are many implications of volunteer work being coerced by the government. One of the many factors affected by the government’s involvement, is the decrease in motivation that individuals possess. “What is necessary to understand is that specifically motivated citizens can assign themselves to areas with high or low government engagement depending on what motivates them to volunteer” (Surva and Tonurist 241). Due to everyone having their own motivational factors for certain volunteer work, states have a limited number of people to pull from in regards to certain volunteer work that needs to be done. Surva and Tonurist state: “Thus, the government is on a narrow tightrope between trying to secure the maximal performance from volunteers- especially volunteer firefighters- and widening the responsibilities too far, and thus, demotivating their partners” (242). Some specific examples of the requirements that the government mandates are: allotting a certain number of hours per week at a volunteer organization, partaking in unpaid training, obtaining certifications, and the list goes on (242). When making the decision to volunteer, it is vital for the individual to understand the reason for the government’s coercion and involvement, despite their frustrations. The extra responsibilities that
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