Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society

Robert D. Putnam

Language: English

Published: Aug 15, 2002


In his national bestseller Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam illuminated the decline of social capital in the US. 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 many intriguing revelations. 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 they find 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.
Offering a panoramic look at social capital around the world, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of these phenomena.



"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

About 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).