Another institution important to our hobby is the local club. This article discusses the history, place and decline of clubs in America, and how
they're making a comeback of sorts. -Editor
AMERICA: A NATION OF CLUBS
Until recently, American social life has revolved around small groups of people brought together by similar social interests, much like Monty's
many clubs. Some asked members to pay dues, but in many cases-like the Sherlock Holmes club and DeMolay-the fees were modest and served primarily to
support the operations. Many were entirely free. And many believe they had an important role to play in American society.
"These organizations were important to American democracy because they were democratic in their internal governance," says Peter Levine, a
professor of political science at Tufts. "They were local, but they were also federated so they brought America together. They were gender and race
segregated as a whole, but they went across class, creating cross-class solidarity."
As Levine points out, while the clubs of the past brought together people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, they were exclusionary in many
other ways. Many clubs were gender segregated based on stereotypes about masculinity and femininity: Men tended to be in business organizations,
while women were part of quilting and charity clubs, then later in suffrage groups. And, until the 1960s, clubs tended to be racially segregated. For
instance, minorities were very literally excluded from business clubs that were historically white, making it impossible for them to create the kinds
of networks that would be valuable for career advancement.
Over the last few decades, sociologists and political scientists have found that American clubs of all stripes-from youth service clubs to bowling
leagues-have experienced steep declines in their memberships.
Meanwhile, a new kind of club is rising up in major cities. These are stylishly designed, members-only spaces that often come with a high price
tag, thereby limiting membership to the wealthy and privileged.
In other words, there are fewer clubs that bring together people of different socioeconomic backgrounds across the country and a growing number
that are designed for a class of digitally native, urban professionals. All of this is changing the social landscape of the United States. What
accounts for the sharp decline in traditional clubs and organizations? How will this new breed of elite club change American society? And perhaps
most importantly, is there a way to bring back free, or inexpensive, clubs that will allow more Americans to participate in communities and engage
BRINGING BACK THE COMMUNITY CLUB
Many political scientists say that the withering of America's clubs and associations makes the country worse off. It means that fewer people are
embedded in a community, which is known to help people feel happier and even live longer. But it also makes our nation worse off because people
become increasingly siloed and removed from those who are unlike them. While this new breed of social club is actively trying to be inclusive when it
comes to race, gender, and sexual orientation, they are still segregating people by social class.
Theda Skocpol, the Harvard political scientist, believes that to create a better society we need to break down some of these class lines. "One
answer to improving the nation's civic life will turn out, I believe, to lie in encouraging privileged Americans to rejoin-or recreate-the group
settings in which they have a daily chance to work with a broad cross-section of fellow citizens to address the nation's concerns," she writes in
the Brookings Review.
The complete article is available online and well worth reading in full. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
Social clubs died out in America. Now,
venture capital is bringing them back (https://www.fastcompany.com/90350407/the-death-and-unlikely-rebirth-of-the-american-social-club)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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