Conformity, Beneficial Or Harmful? An Analysis Of Putnam's "Bowling Alone", Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" And Andrew Ross's "Celebration Chronicles".

2213 words - 9 pages

History has displayed dependence on the factor of conformity within civilizations. Throughout the past, conformity has been used to regulate people's actions, reduce the possibility of drastic change and create a universal feeling. By limiting the individual, conformity restricts certain aspects of positive advancement within communities. Simply put, conformity is a pressure that can be found to some extent in every established community, and places restrictions on how those members of the community may live their lives. In the long run, conformity restricts both individualistic desires and values. This restriction is displayed through the literary works of Robert D. Putnam, Thornton Wilder, and Andrew Ross. In Bowling Alone, Putnam places factual stress on the point that high social capital can lead to pressures of conformity within a community. In accordance with Putnam, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder is set within a town that demands routine and traditional values. The Celebration Chronicles, by Andrew Ross discusses a fully planned community that demands different altitudes of conformity throughout its setup. Both communities stress a level of conformity and at the same time maintain somewhat of a high social capital within their structure. Although visualized as a beneficial tool, forced conformity in the long run places restrains on individualistic behavior.One would expect that a high level of social capital within a community would lead to beneficial attributes, but is this true? Putnam suggests that such high levels of social capital can often lead to conformity. I guess now the question is whether or not conformity is a beneficial component of a community. According to Putnam, conformity is the "dark side" of social capital, and often reinforced by strong community life. "In small-town America in the 1950's people were deeply engaged in community life, but to many this surfeit of social capital seemed to impose conformity and social division (Putnam 352)." The 50's marked a time of a high sense of nationalism and togetherness through special interest groups, but as Putnam suggests this high social capital level eventually set the path for conformity. Today, the social capital level has surely decreased and with that decline has brought about more tolerance and less conformity."Can it be a coincidence that as social capital has crumbled, tolerance has increased? (Putnam 354)" It is evident that old-fashioned clubs placed high pressure on a tightly knit group with conforming beliefs. Their main purpose was to bring people with the same cultural or social beliefs together. Today, tolerance for diversity has increased while social capital has diminished at the same time. To answer Putnam's question, there is a coincidence between the two. The answer in fact lies within his interpretation of liberty versus a community. This theory discusses the conflict of the roles of an individual within a community. A community with high social capital...

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