Can We Rebuild Social Cohesion in the U.S.?

Sep 25, 2020 |
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Our nation’s social fabric is torn by political polarization, distrust, disinformation, exclusion, coarsened public discourse, and divisions along geographic, cultural, and racial lines. The precarity of that social fabric has been exacerbated by stagnating social mobility, widening socioeconomic inequality, and structural inequities, often along racial, ethnic, and gender lines. Our political institutions seem incapable of responding effectively to the needs of civil society. And America’s corroding social infrastructure was at issue before the arrival of the current administration and this year’s COVID pandemic and racial justice movement; combinations of the three only underscore or amplify our social upheaval. Entering fall 2020 the collective American project, the ethic of a democratic society, and our ties to one another have become perilously fragile.

Given the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our political and civic life, how do we spread a culture of commitment that weaves together resilient, empowered communities? How do we as a society form – or re-form – inclusive social connections that promote cohesion and a sense of common purpose and identity? This is a moment not only of crisis and urgency, but also of possibility. Danielle Allen, Shaylyn Romney Garrett, Eric Klinenberg, and Robert Putnam joined David Brooks in conversation as they considered such questions and outlined concrete actions and correctives.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was pleased to cosponsor this event produced by the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University.