One June 6, 2016, the Environics Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary with a special public event co-hosted with the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of the United States and the Munk School of Global Affairs
The event, before a capacity crowd of close to 500 at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, featured Dr.Robert Putnam, Harvard political scientist and one of the leading social scientists of our time (perhaps best known for his seminal work on social capital, Bowling Alone).
Professor Putnam spoke about social change in the USA, and identified a series social, political and cultural trends (e.g., income equality, political collaboration, associational membership, immigration) in the USA that have no apparent connection but share a very similar trajectory (rising dramatically from around 1900 to the mid-1960s, and then declining just as rapidly to our present day). He posed the question about what might cause such a seismic shift over the 20th century, which represents a massive swing from individualism to communitariansism, and back again. This marks the beginning of his exploration of an answer, and what it may tell us about what happens next in the USA (and lessons for Canada and other western democracies).
Putnam’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion on a Canadian perspective to this topic, including a response to Putnam’s presentation by two noted Canadian experts on social capital: Dr. Kwame McKenzie (Wellesley Institute) and Dr. Keith Banting (Queen’s University). The panel was moderate by Rahul Bhardwaj (outgoing CEO of the Toronto Foundation).
The event concluded with a brief thank-you to Professor Putnam by Dr. Janice Stein (Munk School for Global Affairs) and concluding remarks by Michael Adams (President and Founder of the Environics Institute).