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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (16 Jun. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691037388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691037387
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Winner of the 1994 Charles H. Levine Memorial Book Prize
Winner of the 1994 Gregory Luebbert Award
Winner of the 1993 Louis Brownlow Book Award, National Academy of Public Administration
Honorable Mention for the 1993 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Government and Political Science, Association of American Publishers

"Seminal, epochal, path-breaking: All those overworked words apply to a book that, to make the point brazenly, is a Democracy in America for our times."--David L. Kirp, The Nation

"A great work of social science, worthy to rank alongside de Tocqueville, Pareto, and Weber.... If [Putnam's] claims about the essential conditions of successful democracy are correct (and they almost certainly are), then politicians and political scientists alike will have to think again about democracy's prospects in Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe."--The Economist

"A remarkable study of `civic traditions.'"--Steven Lukes, The Times Literary Supplement

"It is rare that one comes across a classic in political science, yet in Robert D. Putnam's Making Democracy Work we undoubtedly have one. . . . Mr. Putnam's seminal work addresses in a rigorously empirical way the central question of democratic theory: What makes democratic institutions stable and effective? . . . [His] findings strikingly corroborate the political theory of civic humanism, according to which strong and free government depends on a virtuous and public-spirited citizenry--on an undergirding civic community. . . . One crucial implication of Making Democracy Work is that feeble and corrupt government, operating against the background of a weak and uncivic society, tends not to foster the creation of wealth, but rather to renew poverty. Overmighty government may stifle economic initiative. But enfeebled government and unrepresentative government kills it, or diverts it into corruption and criminality. . . . This may not, perhaps, be a universal truth; but it is directly relevant to the prospects of democracy in the United States today."--The New York Times Book Review

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Nov. 1998
Format: Paperback
Putnam's thesis on the importance of social capital in engendering the successful functioning of democracy is an intriguing idea that merits serious reflection in our context today. His study of the community-organizations in Italy, and their effects on the effective workings of democracy on a regional and national level, highlight the importance of civic organizations and their ability to inculcate in their members a sense of civic duty - which consequently leads to a vibrant democracy. This book is perhaps especially fitting in the American context today in light of declining interest in politics, diminishing belief in the efficacy of governing institutions in solving problems, and the general ethos of apathy and frustration felt around the nation in the realm of democracy (something that the most recent election's low voter turnout indicated). Although the study is interesting, the idea is perhaps a little less useful in the pragmatic sense; one could run into the question of a chicken-and-egg scenario where there is a debate between which came first: vibrant democracy or civic organizations. Regardless, the book is one of the best in its subject area and a recommended read for any student interested in such issues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gus on 15 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is an impressive book. If nothing else, every human being should read chapter 4 to fully understand why his/her society is falling apart or succeeding. The book is much less about Italy and much more about the elements correlated to the societies that work. The only problem is that the author does not have a recipe on how to develop those elements. But, then again, who does?!

Extremely easy to read, short and straight to the point. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
It's NOT the economy, stupid . . . it's civics! 22 Feb. 2001
By ChairmanLuedtke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The central concept of Putnam's study is "institutions," but he frames these institutions as both an independent and a dependent variable. Positing that institutions shape politics, but institutions themselves are shaped by history, Putnam is able to explain both the causes and the effects of political institutions among Italian regions. The "effects" portion of his study is the lesser of the two in importance; basically, the fact that all Italian regions got identical institutions in 1970, and yet the performance of these institutions varied widely across Italy, sheds much doubt on the questionable theory that formal institutional design itself is a primary determinant of government performance (although most Italians North and South agree that the new regional governments have been a change for the better).
But if institutional design has limited explanatory power, then what other variable can better account for institutional performance? This is the more important half of Putnam's work, for it is where he shows that "social context and history profoundly condition the effectiveness of institutions" (182), by unveiling his more controversial and powerful independent variable: civic culture. What is civic culture? It goes by many names and concepts for Putnam (civic traditions, political culture, civic involvement, social capital, republican virtues) but in its most basic form it is "norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement" (167).
In contrast with the existence of this civic culture in Northern Italy, identified as having a millenium-long pedigree due to the North's highly decentralized political history, Putnam uses the concept of "amoral familism" to characterize the civic culture (or lack thereof) in Southern Italy. Amoral familism implies that reciprocity and engagement are limited to family relations and to vertical networks of hierarchical power alone (in contrast to more participatory and egalitarian horizontal networks in the North), and that all other social relations, as a consequence, are characterized by material self-interest. Tracing the evolution of amoral familism to Southern Italy's monarchical past, Putnam finds that Southern regions have been doomed to institutional failure by their civic legacy, just as the North was guaranteed a relatively easy success by theirs. Putnam summarizes these two divergent starting points as "vicious and virtuous circles that have led to contrasting, path-dependent social equilibria" (180).
To prove this main causal argument, that civic culture determines institutional performance, one would obviously need adequate measures for both civic culture and institutional performance. As evidence of institutional performance, or "good government," Putnam chooses twelve indicators: cabinet stability, budget promptness, statistical and information services, reform legislation, legislative innovation, day care centers, family clinics, industrial policy instruments, agricultural spending capacity, local health unit expenditures, housing and urban development and bureaucratic responsiveness. Putnam then further evaluates the validity of these indicators by surveying both elite and public opinions regarding the institutional performance of their regional governments, to see if the public's perception matches his own.
For evidence of his primary independent variable, civic culture, Putnam proposes four indicators to put his finger on this elusive entity. These indicators are: voluntary associations, newspaper readership, referenda turnout, and (lack of) personalized preference voting. Putnam also correlates these "objective" measures with more opinion-based survey indicators of civic culture.
Most of Putnam's evidence coheres quite well with his causal argument. His quantitative indicators of both institutional performance and civic culture are relatively broad and accurate, with the minor exceptions that would be inherent in any attempt to quantify a complex, multi-dimensional concept like "civic culture". The strong statistical correlations identified by the measurement of his indicators, backed up with corresponding qualitative evidence (some, but not all of it historical), can probably be taken as reliable evidence of a meaningful causal relationship (in Italy) between civic culture and institutional performance. Perhaps the most striking implication of these results is that the ubiquitous relationship between economic development and democracy is actually shown to "disappear" in a statistical sense. In other words, Putnam has controlled for economic development and found that civic culture predicts both democracy and economic development, perhaps even better than economic development itself. This finding, if confirmed in other studies and settings, would obviously topple quite a few of the canonical theories in comparative politics.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
For students of civil society, this is a must read. 3 Nov. 1998
By Shawn Denney (shdenn@earthlink.net) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Which came first, responsive government or civic participation? Much like the chicken and the egg, this has been a question with no end of debate. However, some new ammunition for the civil society camp may be found in Dr. Robert Putnam's research on Italian civic origins. Over the last two decades, Dr. Putnam has been collecting data on this issue from the various regional governments throughout Italy. The central question behind his research has been what are the conditions for creating strong, effective, responsive, and representative institutions in a democracy? Extremely well written, Putnam's work takes the reader logically through the research process and into the conclusion: that a region's level of civic engagement has a direct relationship to effective democratic institutions. Beginning with an overview of the research, Dr. Putnam tells us that there exists a definite difference between performance in the northern regions as compared to the southern regions. Using heightened chorale and soccer club association as a litmus test of social capital, Putnam argues that good government must first be preceded by a foundation of trust towards one's neighbor. Putnam's analysis takes the reader through three broad modes of explaining institutional performance: institutional design, socioeconomic factors, and finally sociocultural factors. The former, institutional design, we find should be discounted from the start as all of Italy was provided the same governmental backdrop. As for socioeconomic affects, Putnam points out that the southern regions, those with the least responsive institutions, were actually more industrialized and better developed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than their northern counterparts! Why then such a disparity in performance if the two leading arguments for predicting performance are demonstrated not to hold true? As one might have guessed, sociocultural factors are to blame. The argument being that social background is linked with public policy decisions. The way a society holds its values defines how institutions are developed. For the northern regions, medieval communes and guilds from the 11th century provide a "fabric of organized collective action for mutual benefit" that is lacking in the south. Putnam argues that these foundations of community spirit are the basis for northern Italy's heightened level of social capital. The south, having a separate history, never developed such community spirit, and instead relies on individual action for the fruit of one's own labor. One then can only conclude that the seeds of civil society in any culture were planted long ago. So why read the book? Putnam's conclusions actually have bearing on today's discussion of civil society in America. As in northern Italy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, America appears to have a declining level of social capital. But does decline equate to elimination of social capital? Clearly northern Italy seems to be social capital rich when compared with other regions. So then America, like northern Italy, can come out of its slump. When will we know? Putnam states that it would be impossible to measure northern Italian social capital at 1100 ad from the perspective of 1120 ad. So to will it be impossible for us to judge America of the 1980's and 90's from the perspective of 1998. The result, we will just have to wait and see. Good news for civic researchers of the next millenium!
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing Thesis - with reservations 8 Nov. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Putnam's thesis on the importance of social capital in engendering the successful functioning of democracy is an intriguing idea that merits serious reflection in our context today. His study of the community-organizations in Italy, and their effects on the effective workings of democracy on a regional and national level, highlight the importance of civic organizations and their ability to inculcate in their members a sense of civic duty - which consequently leads to a vibrant democracy. This book is perhaps especially fitting in the American context today in light of declining interest in politics, diminishing belief in the efficacy of governing institutions in solving problems, and the general ethos of apathy and frustration felt around the nation in the realm of democracy (something that the most recent election's low voter turnout indicated). Although the study is interesting, the idea is perhaps a little less useful in the pragmatic sense; one could run into the question of a chicken-and-egg scenario where there is a debate between which came first: vibrant democracy or civic organizations. Regardless, the book is one of the best in its subject area and a recommended read for any student interested in such issues.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Making democracy work 13 May 2009
By Kenneth Bunker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Putnam's asks `why do some democratic governments succeed and others fail? To answer this he tries to approach the role of institutions on shaping the practice of politics and government. He asks, for example, if the quality of the institutions determines the quality of citizens, and therefore the quality of democracy. His underlying research question is: What are the conditions for creating strong, responsive, effective representative institutions? (Putnam 1993: 6).

The book studies fundamental questions about civic life by studying the regions in Italy. The research investigation began when Putnam and his fellow scholars decided to explore empirically the results of the 1970 division of Italy into regions. The book wanders around the complexity of Italian civic traditions and finally answers a lot more than its initial proposal.

Putnam starts out by defining the Institutionalist nature of his research. Basically he points out the steppingstone that (a) Institutions shape politics, and (b) Institutions are shaped by history (Putnam 1993: 7-9).

To empirically answer his research question Putnam's social science method consists on conducting multiple personal interviews to community leaders in selected regions of Italy between 1970 and 1989. Additionally, he employs personal and nation-wide surveys during the same period of time. He also uses specific case studies on institutional politics and regional planning in some selected regions, to gain higher leverage.

Putnam starts out arguing on how institutions can change civic society and civic society can have a higher impact on democracy that itself can potentially have effects on an economic plain. However, he adverts that "the rhythms of institutional change are slow" (1993: 18-25) -which is one of the strong points of his long-time cross-sectional research.

Hence, over about 20 years Putnam examines for trends in the sub regional and sub-national government to predict patterns in Institutions. But he starts off by the basis that some parts of Italy have had "better" local governments than others. He says that "some regional governments have been more successful than others -more efficient in their internal operations, more creative in their policy initiatives, more effective in implementing those initiatives" (Putnam 1993: 81).

Through out his book he proves that these differences between regions in Italy have been stable for more many decades and are differences that are widely recognized by all parts of society -from civic leaders and regular citizens. From this point on he tries to explain the difference between regions: Why are some regions more civic than others?

He proposes some variables that work as explanatory indicators of institutional performance, such as: cabinet stability, budget promptness, statistical and information services, reform legislation, legislative innovation, day care centers, family clinics, industrial policy instruments, agricultural spending capacity, local health unit expenditures, housing and urban development, bureaucratic responsiveness (Putnam 1993: 67-73).

He later concludes, "by far the most important factor in explaining good governments is the degree to which social and political life in a region approximates the ideal of the civic community" (Putnam 1993: 120). To this interaction he finds fundamental differences between the north and the south.

One of the main differences is the historical trend of the social and political organization founding. In the north there were communal republics, while in the south there were Papal States and Kingdoms (Putnam 1993: 135) -an independent culture vs. a hierarchical top down organization. This way the higher developed civic cultures were given in the north, while the south was more unorganized and least civic (Putnam 1993: 150).

Finally Putnam concludes that "economics does not predict civics, but civics does predict economics, [even] better than economics itself" (Putnam 1993: 157). He argues that the higher social organization skills (civic traditions) in the north have led to higher socio economic development indicators.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Civic-ness" and Democracy 30 Aug. 2006
By Matthew P. Arsenault - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the early 1970s, political power was decentralized in Italy. The power once held by the central government in Rome was reallocated to the newly created regional governments. Constitutionally, the regions possessed similar political institutions. However, the regions varied socially, economically and in political context. Putnam, seeing a ready laboratory for social science, chose to study the role of environmental factors on institutional performance in the new regional governments. Institutions serve as Putnam's independent variable, while a number of environmental factors act as the dependent variables. As such three main research questions emerged; 1) how does institutional change affect identity, power, and strategy of the regional political actors, 2) how is institutional performance a function of history, and lastly 3) which features of social context most powerfully affect institutional performance (8).

In examining the institutional impacts on identity, power, and strategy of regional politicos, Putnam builds upon the "new institutionalism" proposed by March and Olsen. According to the new institutional paradigm: intuitions reshape the identities of political actors, redistribute political power, and instill new norms for political behavior. Putnam argues that the identity of regional political actors has evolved to create a system in which actors experience an "ideological depolarization." Party identity has become less extreme and regional politicians have taken a more centrist stance than their counterparts in the central government. This has lead regional politicos to develop a more accepting attitude of rival parties and a system of consensus in which inter-party conflict has been replaced by cooperation. The author argues that such changes in political identity occurred due to the institutional structure of the regional governments. As regional institutions became more developed, regional actors saw loyalty to regional constituents as more important than party loyalty. As such, pragmatism replaced ideology in regional politics (39).

In addition, the institutional changes reshaped the distribution of political resources. Putnam says that once institutions are in place, they create their own momentum. With political actors gaining more autonomy from the central authority, regional leaders began to form coalitions and demand greater recognition and power from the government in Rome. As such, the distribution of political power was changed so that an increasing amount of control fell to the regional government.

Also, the changes in institutional structures at the regional level caused changes to the political norms previously held by the regional constituents. First, because of the decentralization of power, the constituents and regional politicos are closer in proximity, which made regional politics, "hands-on, face-to-face." Politicians became more administratively motivated than politically motivated. In addition to the close proximity, regional actors adopted more democratic sentiments and less elitist views of governing. They became more concerned with regional issues than vying for political power at the national level. Such a relationship has lead to an increased legitimacy for regional governments. Still, the efficiency of the Italian regional governments is relative. Putnam writes, "Popular legitimacy of new institutions, even successful ones, grows only gradually" (60).

In addition to examining the impact of institutions on political actors, Putnam seeks to examine the relative performance of the new regional institutions. In order to test institutional performance, Putnam looks at two areas, responsiveness to constituents and the efficiency in conducting the business of the public. The author divides the indicators of institutional effectiveness into three broad spheres: policy process, policy pronouncement, and policy implementation. Policy process examines the institution's decision making process. Policy pronouncement examines the government's ability to recognize social needs and offer solutions, and policy implementation serves as a measure of the ability of the regional government to implement policy in the major sectors of activity. In Putnam's study it was unsurprisingly discovered that effectiveness and responsiveness as measures of institutional performance are closely related. In measuring performance, Putnam discovered that although institutionally the same, some regions performed better than others. Putnam attempts to explain the differences between institutional performance through an examination of regional socioeconomic modernity (economic growth following the industrial revolution) and civic community ("civic involvement and social solidarity") 83. Although Putnam readily admits that those regions which had a "head start" economically, most notably those regions in the north, are likely to have more efficient institutional performance than their southern neighbors, socioeconomic factors may not explain the whole story of performance difference. Rather, Putnam concentrates on the development of civic community as a catalyst for successful institutional performance.

A healthy civic community, according to Putnam, is a driving force behind a successful democratic government. In his description, Putnam sees four main themes that accompany civic community: civic engagement, political equality, solidarity/trust/tolerance, and associations. Civic engagement includes active political participation by members of the community. Members of the civic group must be interested in public affairs and be willing to work towards better the community as a whole. Political equality also is imperative for a healthy civic society. According to Putnam, a civic society with political equality is characterized by a horizontal power structure, one in which all parties are equal, as opposed to a hierarchical structure in which patronage and dependency are prominent. In the realm of individual and group interactions in the civic society, actors must have a sense of solidarity, trust, and tolerance. The author readily admits that the civic community will be far from conflict-free, but so long as participating parties maintain the premises of solidarity, trust, and tolerance, negotiation and comprise will occur, hopefully promoting a utilitarian sense of good.

Putnam calls the aggregation of civic engagement, political equality, solidarity/trust, and associations, and region's "civic-ness." Regions with a high level of "civic-ness" are less apt to have constituents who use a preference voting ballot, are more likely to turnout for referendum voting, read newspapers, and have a large variety of civic associations. In addition, Putnam discovers that constituents in regions with a higher level of civic-ness experience a greater trust and contentment with their governments. The author finds that those living in a region with a strong civic group have a greater trust in their elected officials, feel a good deal of participation in the political process, and that political leaders are genuinely concerned with the well-being of the populous. As such, Putnam argues that regions with greater "civic-ness" have a better quality of democracy than their less civic counterparts.

In developing a sense of "civic-ness" the problem of collective action may emerge. Putnam proposes a number of solutions to the collective action problem. First, Putnam builds upon the "soft" solutions proposed by Robert Bates. Such solutions include community development and creating a sense of trust between citizens. Putnam proposes increasing community development through the promotion of human capital development. The author argues that investments in social capital help alleviate collective action problems. Like monetary capital, once an investment in human capital occurs, social capital will grow exponentially. He writes, "Other sources of social capital, too, such as social norms and networks increase with use and diminish with disuse" (170). As such, in order for a sense of "civic-ness," and subsequently, effective and equitable institutions to emerge, first an investment of social capital must occur.
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