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DocumentaryHistory

#community#film#politics#social issues#video

A Forthcoming Documentary Examines How Civic Life in America Is a Matter of ‘Join or Die’

February 22, 2024

Kate Mothes

“This is Bob. Bob is a big fan of clubs,” the narrator opens in the trailer for the forthcoming documentary Join or Die. “And this is a film about why you should join one and how Bob discovered that the fate of America depends on it.”

Bob, or Robert D. Putnam, is an acclaimed political scientist who has deeply influenced our understanding of how society and government work. A professor at Harvard and author of fifteen books, Putnam analyzes a swath of economic, social, political, and cultural trends using loads of data, heralding the idea of social capital, or the networks within society that enable it to function effectively.

Two-and-a-half decades ago, Putman wrote the prescient book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, a powerful insight into how Americans are becoming increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and democratic structures. He tilts a mirror toward our own social behaviors, and Join or Die posits that its importance has only amplified since.

A still from the trailer for the documentary 'Join or Die' featuring a digitally collaged photograph of people gathered around a table on a green background.

All images © ‘Join or Die’

Directed and produced by Rebecca Davids and Pete Davis, Join or Die follows “the half-century story of America’s civic unraveling” through Putnam’s work and interviews with numerous influential figures like Hillary Clinton, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and scholar Eddie Glaude, Jr. The film explores provocative questions like, “What makes democracy work? Why is American democracy in crisis?” Then, it poses a call to action: “What can we do about it?”

The project collates striking statistics that Putnam has gathered during his career about the incredible drops in collective involvement, such as a 50 percent decline from the 1970s to the 1990s in the number of times Americans attended a club meeting the previous year. Or a 50 percent decline from the 1970s to the 1990s in the number of Americans who took a leadership role in any local organization.

“The places that have better government are the places that have a long history of social networks and social capital,” Putnam says. He adds in another clip, “Organization—connections with other people—is the only way you get big change.”

Check out the trailer on the film’s website. (via Swiss Miss)

A still from the trailer for the documentary 'Join or Die' featuring Robert Putnam with the text "This is Bob." on top.

A gif from the trailer for the documentary 'Join or Die' featuring images digitally collaged onto colorful backgrounds of people in groups and clubs.

A still from the trailer for the documentary 'Join or Die' featuring old footage of people playing cards.

#community#film#politics#social issues#video

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