Wednesday, March 29, 2017

America's Still a Nation of Joiners (1995) -- Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

December 21, 1995
America's Still a Nation of Joiners, New York Times

To the Editor:

Before Anthony Lewis proposes solutions to the presumed problem of our nation's becoming nonjoiners (column, Dec. 18), he might consider that Americans today join different groups for different reasons. While it is true that people join P.T.A.'s, the Elks and the Red Cross less, they join support groups more.

According to a 1994 Gallup poll, 40 percent of Americans are members of support groups -- from Bible groups to self-help groups.

Robert Wuthnow, in "Sharing the Journey," reports that 71 million adult Americans meet regularly for small-group support. Alcoholics Anonymous has a million members, and since its inception in 1935, more than 100 derivative groups have arisen.

The number of neighborhood crime-watch groups has doubled in the past 10 years, to 20,000 groups and 17 million people, according to the National Association of Town Watch.

The shift from the old forms to new ones combines small group participation with large-scale advocacy. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has grown in a short period to three million members. To this picture add the more than 20 million people who are communicating on line.

Alexis de Tocqueville would have been pleased.

FRANK RIESSMAN Director, National Self-Help Clearinghouse New York, Dec. 18, 1995

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