BOWLING TOGETHER

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN AMERICA ISN'T DISAPPEARING BUT REINVENTING ITSELF

Roll over, Alexis de Tocqueville. The oft mentioned (but less frequently read) 19th century French scribe is being invoked by every dime-store scholar and public figure these days to bemoan the passing of what the Frenchman described as one of America's distinctive virtues: civic participation. "Americans of all ages, all conditions and all dispositions," he famously wrote, "constantly form associations." In France, Tocqueville observed, a social movement is instigated by the government, in England by the nobility, but in America by an association. Tocqueville and small d democrats from Ben Franklin (who started a volunteer fire brigade) to John F. Kennedy...

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