On atomisation and association.
Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone came out 22 years ago and the structural changes he identified then – increasing atomisation – have only worsened. Everyone now blames the internet, and though it may have accelerated some aspects, the problem goes deeper. The social consequences – loneliness, mistrust, depression – are widely discussed, but the political ones less so.
Does the decline of associationalism open the door to authoritarianism? Are ‘right-wing’ associations (say, churches or homeowner groups) just as threatened as left-wing ones (like unions or labour clubs)? What are the political valences of growing atomisation?
And are we now like the peasants that Marx described in his 18th Brumaire: just potatoes in a sack – and does this explain the crazy politics of our time?