Conformity, Beneficial or Harmful? An analysis of Putnam's "Bowling Alone", Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and Andrew Ross's "Celebration Chronicles".

Essay by billyp933University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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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...