Disconnected (2010) by Andrew Leigh is a crisp, well researched, well written book by the member for Fraser. Leigh was a professor of economics. He also worked as a researched on Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone that studied the measurable decline of social capital in the US. Disconnected does the same for Australia.
Leigh looks at joining general organisation like the Lions club, membership of churches, membership of political parties, how people socialise in the workforce, participation in sport and cultural activities, how well people know their neighbours and how good their friends are and studies of trust and honesty. Each chapter looks at quantifiable measures of how people’s participation in these activities have changed over time.
Leigh then looks at how to explain the trends. Here increased working hours, increased female participation in the workforce, longer commutes, television and diversity are calmly examined. He goes on to state what someone can do to counter these trends.
The book is a credit to its author. It’s a calm, non-political, wonkish book on an important subject. It shows what a real academic can write to contribute ideas based on solid data into social debate. Leigh even includes some subtle bipartisanship in that the first person he credits with helping him is Andrew Norton. The book is definitely the best book on policy I’ve read by an Australian politician.