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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.
"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
|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|