Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society / Edition 1

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Overview

In his national bestseller Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam illuminated the decline of social capital in the U.S., revealing how over the last quarter century we have tended to join fewer clubs, know our neighbors less, meet less frequently with friends, and even socialize less often with our families. Now, in Democracies in Flux, Putnam brings together a group of leading scholars who broaden his findings as they examine the state of social capital in eight advanced democracies around the world.

The book is packed with intriguing revelations about common trends in the countries studied. The contributors note, for instance, that waning participation in unions, churches, and political parties seems to be virtually universal, a troubling discovery as these forms of social capital are especially important for empowering less educated, less affluent portions of the population. Indeed, in general, the researchers found more social grouping among the affluent than among the working classes and also found evidence of a younger generation that is singularly uninterested in politics, distrustful both of politicians and of others, cynical about public affairs, and less inclined to participate in enduring social organizations. On the bright side, social capital appears as strong as ever in Sweden, where 40% of the adult population participate in "study circles" -- small groups who meet weekly for educational discussions.

Social capital -- good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse -- is vitally important both for the health of our communities and for our own physical and psychological well-being. Offering a panoramic look at social capital around the world, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of these phenomena. It will interest anyone concerned with promoting civil society and vibrant social discourse.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
For Putnam, "social capital" applies to a society's capacity to generate the kind of voluntary associations that encourage individuals to cooperate with each other, thereby sustaining democratic pluralism. This volume examines the condition of social capital in several countries, asking an awesome number of questions. How rich in social capital is each country? How does it evolve over time? How is it distributed among classes? How is it configured between formal and informal associations? In response, the chapters offer useful surveys on democracies young and old. Theda Skocpol, for example, studies the shift from membership associations to staff-led advocacy groups in the United States. Essays by Jean-Pierre Worms and Victor Perez-Diaz on France and Spain, respectively, are steeped in history. Peter Hall and Eva Cox stress the importance of the role of the state in the United Kingdom and Australia, respectively, while Takashi Inoguchi compares American and Japanese types of trust. Broaching the difficult task of drawing some conclusions from all this data, Putnam discerns a trend toward narrower forms of social participation, mounting discontent over political institutions, and evidence that the welfare state has sustained rather than eroded social capital. But unequal distribution of social capital remains a major problem, he argues, especially as the traditional groups that once organized the working classes fade.
From the Publisher
"Putnam's thesis, about the virtue of connectiveness, gains here much additional depth. We see it in a comparative, cross-cultural perspective, with each study illuminating all others. A masterpiece of social science." — Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule

"A grand tour of our times—elegant, exciting and unsettling. Democracies in Flux maps the vitality of civil society in eight industrial nations. Their experiences—sometimes similar, often entirely different—add up to a vivid report on the health of democracy in a global era." — James Morone, author of The Democratic Wish and Hellfire Nation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195171600
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/26/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,098,113
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert D. Putnam is Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. The founder of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement, he is the author of the bestselling Bowling Alone, which has been hailed as "powerful" (Wall Street Journal), "a remarkable achievement" (Los Angeles Times), and "wide ranging...luminous...unpretentious and frequently funny" (The Economist).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Great Britain: The Role of Government and the Distribution of Social Capital 21
2 United States: Bridging the Privileged and the Marginalized? 59
3 United States: From Membership to Advocacy 103
4 France: Old and New Civic and Social Ties in France 137
5 A Decline of Social Capital? The German Case 189
6 From Civil War to Civil Society: Social Capital in Spain from the 1930s to the 1990s 245
7 Sweden: Social Capital in the Social Democratic State 289
8 Australia: Making the Lucky Country 333
9 Broadening the Basis of Social Capital in Japan 359
Conclusion 393
Notes 417
Contributors 493
Index 497
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