1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $22.67

Buy for $22.67

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

From the author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids, a “sweeping yet remarkably accessible” (The Wall Street Journal) analysis that “offers superb, often counterintuitive insights” (The New York Times) to demonstrate how we have gone from an individualistic “I” society to a more communitarian “We” society and then back again, and how we can learn from that experience to become a stronger, more unified nation.

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. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However, as the 20th century opened, America became — slowly, unevenly, but steadily — more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

In a “magnificent and visionary book” (The New Republic) drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws on inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. This is Putnam’s most “remarkable” (Science) work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

©2020 Robert D. Putnam. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Upswing

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    67
  • 4 Stars
    30
  • 3 Stars
    10
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    62
  • 4 Stars
    25
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    56
  • 4 Stars
    26
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

For Progressives only. Won't make sense otherwise

I thought this book would be similar to Bowling Alone - an overall snapshot of social, political, and civic happenings in America and possible explanations why. However, Putnam seems to be more interested in rewriting history from his perspective than making any attempts to promote solutions for polarization on how 'America can come together again.'

Putnam acknowledges the major divide in the 1960's and that what people call America has been in dispute for three generations but fails to accommodate for it.
He tries to take a broad perspective on America as a whole, but (in two instances) comes extremely close to outright saying "I don't really know what conservatives are up to."

When I read books by politically right wing authors, they are generally fair and accurate to incorporate both narratives of America from 1960s to present day, or at least specify they are only speaking of theirs. However, this book attempts to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution regardless. This ends up invaliding the entire thesis of the book because of how crystal clear it is to me that he didn't have enough information about American culture to diagnose its problems correctly.

Many chapters in this book were merely the retelling of history solely through a Progressive / Social Justice standpoint. Anyone who has read a Sowell book could dissolve the narratives of entire chapters, possibly 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire book, with a few short sentences. Quoting the gender pay gap and claiming that "more progress still needs to be made until equality is reached" may have been an acceptable stance to hold from 1970 to 2010, but today [late 2020], taking this stance only shows one's willful act of ignoring contrarian viewpoints to protect their own outdated beliefs about the world. it's as if Putnam just stopped paying attention to discussions in America 2010 onward. Several of his talking points have even been fully refuted as early as the 1960's.

And that's the big problem I have with this book. From 1/4 of the way in until the end, It's chapter after chapter of "this is history as I was taught" and "here's how great the Progressives are." I almost forgot what the book was about several times until he would summarize the chapter and thus, remind me that he has a thesis by breaking the fourth wall. What Putnam has accidentally done here is chronicle, in detail, what those on the political right call "the narrative." I will remember this book more for this than anything he wrote relating to his "I We I" thesis.

You know the story already:
"The first half of the 20th century was white supremacy and oppression. The great depression happened and FDR fixed it. The 50's were dull and conformist. The 60's embraced our individuality and liberated us from our past. Women were freed from the burden of raising their children to peruse 'better things in life.' Vietnam protests happened, and they were great. Racism and sexism still have a long way to go before everyone is truly equal. Other than that, not much else happened. That's all you need to know."

I'm not of these social justice types, so I myself just don't see this "I We I" thing he keeps talking about. He builds it from his political, economic, cultural, and social analysis from this Progressive narrative. I can see the economics points he makes and some of the social points, as well. But ultimately It doesn't match the reality in front of me, and doesn't hold up when a broader, more detailed and complete understanding of American history is present.

He really only goes into "solutions" at the very end of the book, but I have to admit, I just don't understand his point. Not because my reading comprehension is poor, but because I simply don't hold the same religious(?) views on human nature as he does. Is he essentially saying that things are guaranteed to get better just because time is still moving?

The best definition of Progressivism I've heard is that these people believe humans can be (and will ultimately be) "perfected," as that's the natural flow of humanity. If you hold a different view than this, this book won't make much sense.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Foot off the Gas

I enjoyed the premise of this book as well as the many valid points not often discussed by other authors. However, Putnam does have the tendency of making bold claims about the recent past without providing sufficient evidence to back them up. For example, Putnam alludes to growing white opposition to racial integration since the 60s’ that manifests today. He calls this the “foot off the gas effect”, which implies that Americans have somehow devoted less effort to racial equality since the 60s’. Which is hard to parse given the increased emphasis on antiracism in recent decades. Apart from mentioning principled opposition to affirmative action, he never addressed how we exactly are taking our foot off the gas in this regard. In the section on gender, he also takes disparate outcomes and infers sinister motivations on the part of men. For example, he cites the often used and misleading wage gap statistics as another foot off the gas event. In addition, he makes a few conflicting statements about the role of childcare in the above wage gap. Bottom line, when Putnam says “foot off the gas” he is vaguely accusing society of a sin of omission or commission directly or indirectly causing the downturn. I do find it refreshing that while hyping up the past, Putnam refrains from being overly nostalgic for the days of lynch mobs and coat hanger abortions, unlike other authors. This book also exaggerates the role of libertarian ideals in leading to the “downturn”. As of this review, the highest-ranking libertarian official is a state senator in Montana, hardly an influential ideology in its pure form. My final point is that by exclusively focusing on the United States many of Putnam’s grander points are highly limited in scope. America is not a vacuum, and the “I we I curve” is very much a global event. Putnam’s arguments would be better served if he devoted at least a paragraph to the wider world. In sum, I agree with a lot of Putnam’s points about the last century, but if I actually posed them myself (in the way Putnam did) in my Poli Sci class, I’d be lucky to get a b-.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting theory of 20th century American history

“Bowling Alone” author Putnam and coauthor Garrett take us from the first gilded age of the late 1890’s to the second, current one, charting the correlated behavior of many variables, from income inequality to baby names. In all of these variables they identify a common, century-long waveform they call “I-we-I”: a cultural shift from self-centered individualism to “happy days” collectivism and back again. They use this thesis as a lens to examine trends in the evolution of economics, culture, politics, and race and gender relations, marshaling copious amounts of data as supporting evidence. While not without flaws - the concluding recommendations seem a bit naive, and the lack of any discussion of the relationship between America’s trajectory and trends in the wider world seems like a missed opportunity for improved understanding— it was, overall, a worthwhile listen, especially for people who enjoy seeing new insights extracted from history.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Book to be Read by Everyone!

As Putnam demonstrates exhaustively, our current state of political polarization, income inequality and rule by corporate lobbies of by and for themselves has its antecedents in the 1880s-early 1900s Gilded Age, an era also marked by strife. It was an era of laissez faire economics, social Darwinism and hyper-individualism. The US became a fairer, more co-operative polity because of the Progressive Movement, which instituted reforms across the board (except did not combat racism), giving women the vote, ending child labor, improving health. The Upswing lasted through the ‘50s ( the ‘20s excepted), then stopped. We went from a “ we” society of broad collaboration, less inequality and more collegial politics back to an “I” society focused on individual success at the expense of everyone else. Trump, the total narcissist, is the exaggerated epitome of “I”! How to reverse it again? Putnam isn’t as prescriptive as I wish he were, but his gist is: collective, collegial and broadly based (bipartisan) reform action, local, state and national. He finds hope in movements toward gun safety, health reform, criminal justice reform etc But he urges advocacy groups not to become extremist and turn off potential supporters. I think the growing political reform movement (check Represent.us to see) represents the new Progressive Era (which needs a better name because the label “Progressive” has been seized by the “woke” Left that can’t win broad support. For sure, America cannot go on as divided as it is. We have to bring back “we” thinking because we are all Americans and in this together!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

A slog to read, boring and clinical

the author has found some really interesting data points that might fill a New York Times essay. In fact he has done just that with an excellent essay recently published which covers the topics of the book including some of the interesting learnings or takeaways. However the amount of material present is surely not enough to comprise a book of this length. each chapter is incredibly drawn out, often including an introduction section which summarizes everything you've already read for the first half hour. the book also fails to deliver on its promise of explaining how we can turn things around. Everything with respect to the present is shoved into the latter half of the final chapter and is certainly glossed over. second only to its egregious length, a great error of this book is a lack of international context. Additionally, the book is rather queerly designed to exclude women and blacks from The Narrative until two chapters in which they are explicitly addressed. I highly recommend folks who find these topics interesting to pursue the New York Times I say instead and leave this book on the Shelf.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Worth the Price

The book is well written, although a bit dry. I’d love for it to be read by today’s “conservatives,” but before that, it should be read by today’s “progressives.”

This gives me a little hope that we’ll start a new upswing in my lifetime, but the drivers of it will be Millennials and Gen Z. My Gen X fellows don’t appear motivated to improve things in this way.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Subjective Facts

Contradictory, but interesting.
I was looking for the research and resources for word usage over time.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Dull and uninteresting.

Dull and uninteresting study written for middle class, suburban soccer moms. definitely written by someone out of touch with the real world. If your a white suburban Democrat you might find it to your taste.
thought about quitting half way through but it was noise in the car, and some parts were halfway interesting.
doubt this will be read by anyone beyond 2021.
Seems like the "white elitist liberal trying to solve social problems " genre is coming out with these garbage books left and right these days.