Jonathan Fox, How does civil society thicken? The political construction of social capital in rural Mexico”, World Development 24 (1996), pp. 1089-1103

Summary: explores pathways for the ‘thickening’ of civil society under less-than-democratic conditions.


Method: examination of the variety in political dynamics across different regions and over time in rural Mexico.


Important Insight: argues that the growth of the building-block organizations of an autonomous civil society in an authoritarian environment depends on the ‘political construction’ of social capital (which emerges via cycles of interaction between states and society). Social capital can be produced (a) by state and local actors (synergistic collaboration – the main pattern in rural Mexico) or (b) by the interaction of local societal actors and external actors in civil society (religious, developmental, environmental, civic, or political). Social capital may also be produced (c) from below, but external allies still turn out to be crucial in the ability of such organizations to survive.






*three conceptual building blocks contribute to the ‘political construction’ approach to the uneven emergence of social capital under authoritarian regimes:

1) political opportunities: elite political conflicts have an independent causal effect on civil society’s capacity to organize because they determine the state’s willingness and capacity to encourage or dismantle social capital.

2) social energy and ideas: while historical legacies shape the ways in which actors respond to positive or negative incentives for collective action, they do not respond in automatic or unidirectional ways. Contingent ideas, leadership, and action influence whether grievances are defined as shared and whether problems are interpreted as subject to change.

3) the processes of ‘scaling up’ local representation and bargaining power: social capital is not homogenous – some kinds of organizations have more public good ‘spillover effects’ than others. The premise here is that bargaining power is necessary to create respect for freedom of association, which in turn requires some degree of ‘scaling up’ of organization beyond the most local level (contrast this with Putnam, 1993).

*scaling up is especially important for representing the interests of dispersed populations since they have the greatest difficulty in defining common interests and are the most vulnerable to ‘divide and conquer’ efforts from above.

Ashutosh Varshney, “Ethnic conflict and civil society: India and beyond”, World Politics 53 (2001), pp. 362-398

Summary: examines the links between civil society and ethnic conflict. Argues that there is an integral (probabilistic) link between the structure of civic life in a multiethnic society, on the one hand, and the presence or absence of ethnic violence, on the other (in short, that trust based on interethnic, not intraethnic, networks is critical). To illustrate these links, two interconnected arguments are made:


1) interethnic and intraethnic networks of civic engagement play very different roles in ethnic conflict. Because they build bridges and manage tensions, interethnic networks are agents of peace, but if communities are organized only along intraethnic lines and the interconnections with other communities are very weak or even nonexistent, then ethnic violence is quite likely.

*exogenous shocks, tensions, or rumours are thus mediated by the type of networks  that exist.

2) civic networks, both intraethnic and interethnic, can also be broken down into two other types: a) organized (associational forms of engagement) and b) quotidian (everyday forms of engagement). Both forms of engagement, if robust, promote peace: contrariwise, their absence or weakness opens up space for ethnic violence. Of the two, however, the associational forms turn out to be sturdier than everyday engagement, especially when confronted with attempts by politicians to polarize people along ethnic lines.

*vigorous associational life, if interethnic, acts as a serious constraint on politicians, even when ethnic polarization is in their political interest. The more the associational network cuts across ethnic boundaries, the harder it is for politicians to polarize communities.


Method: uses three paired comparisons (all in India) of a riot-prone city matched with a peaceful one (with populations between half a million and just over four million), with all three sets paired according to roughly similar Hindu-Muslim percentages in the city populations, a second set paired with extra controls for previous Muslim rule and reasonable cultural similarities, and a third pair included controls for history, language, and culture.






-while everyday forms of engagement may be enough to maintain peace on a small scale (villages or small towns), it is no substitute for interethnic associations in larger settings (cities and metropolises). Size reduces the efficacy of informal interactions, privileging formal associations.

-the role of inter-communal civic networks has been crucial for peace at a proximate level. Taking the long view, however, the causal factor was a transformative shift in national politics. Once put in place by the (Indian) national movement, the civic structures took on a life and logic of their own, constraining the behaviour of politicians in the short to medium run

Rex Brynen et. al. Political Liberalization and Democratization in the Arab World. (1994), vol.1, Chapters by Anderson and Hudson.

Hudson (1994) The Political Culture Approach to Arab Democratization: The case for bringing it back in, carefully.


Summary:discusses the use of political culture in studies of the Arab world, and argues that its (careful) use is required.


Important Insight: the experiments in liberalization, even democratization, occurring in several countries (e.g. Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco) cannot be adequately explained without invoking political culture. Despite its conceptual untidiness and empirical difficulties, political culture is an important variable; it cannot be reduced to other factors such as economics, institutions, or externalities; it is necessary for helping explain how authoritarianism is losing its legitimacy. The political culture concept, then, must be brought back in – but carefully. We need, and can develop, more sophisticated, less biased formulations of political culture(s) in Arab politics that will help us understand the possibilities and limits of alternatives to authoritarianism.

*thus far, writers on political culture in the Arab world fall into two categories: the reductionist approaches  – with their generalizations that Arab Muslims have a political culture that permits no public sphere and that is anti-democratic; and the empirical approaches – which are underdeveloped

*the key question is therefore how to deal empirically with civil society and political culture in general.




Anderson (1994) Democracy in the Arab World: A critique of the political culture approach.


Important Insight: the nature of the political regimes in the Arab world, like those elsewhere in the world, can best be understood as reflections of the political economy of the countries in question, particularly the character of their integration into the world economy. This is not to say that values and attitudes do not play a role in politics. Obviously they do, but we must consider far more carefully how best to assess when and where they have their impact.


*rather than simply survey the attitudes and behaviour of the population in question, most analysts begin with an effort to explain the absence of something desirable – democracy – by the presence of something undesirable – in this instance, ‘bad attitudes’. Perhaps, however, this lacuna is more appropriately attributable to the absence of other desirable traits – full national sovereignty, for example, or greater economic prosperity – rather than the presence of some kind of congenital defect.

*there are two mistakes here and together they compound the problems they separately create. The result are self-fulfilling prophecies rather than carefully reasoned or carefully researched arguments.

**first, as we have seen, accounting for what is absent, while not impossible, is extremely difficult and requires very rigorous specification of the feature whose absence is to be explained.

**second, when that feature is something so simultaneously intricate and value-laden as democracy, that requirement for rigour is almost guaranteed to be relaxed in the face of the complexity and desirability of the phenomenon itself.

Michael Bratton, ‘Beyond the state: civil society and associational life in Africa”, World Politics 41 (1989), pp. 407-430.

(This is a actually a book review of four volumes)


Important Insight: argues that Africanist political scientists should devote more research attention to the associational life that occurs in the political space beyond the state’s purview. A statist perspective must be tempered by an account of the dynamic influence of society. With few exceptions, African political elites have been unable to engineer a lasting consolidation of power, the reproduction of a governing class, or an improvement of living standards for members of society at large.






*despite efforts at inclusionary corporatism and mass de-politicization, ‘politics’ has not become coterminous with ‘the state’. Because of the shallow penetration of society by weak state institutions, there is a relatively larger realm of unoccupied political space in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

*this terrain has yet to be adequately explored and mapped, and we therefore need to refocus attention on a more pluralistic array of political actions. Civil society has an independent effect upon economy and society, as well as upon the formation, consolidation, and performance of the state itself.

Sheri Berman, “Civil society and the collapse of the Weimar Republic”, World Politics (1997), pp. 401-429.

‘Summary: responds to Putnam (1993) and his ilk, re: the neo-Tocquevilian thoery.


Method: case study of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazi party.


Important Insight: a flourishing civil society does not necessarily bode well for the prospects of liberal democracy – institutions matter. For civil society to have the beneficial effects neo-Toquevillieans posit, the political context has to be right: absent strong and responsive political institutions, an increasingly active civil society may serve to undermine, rather than strengthen, a political regime. Without such political institutions, societies will lack trust and the ability to define and realize their common interests. In such situations, associationalism will probably undermined political stability, by deepening cleavages, furthering dissatisfaction, and providing rich soil for oppositional movements.






*instead of helping to reduce social cleavages, Germany’s weak and poorly designed political institutions exacerbated them; instead of responding to the demands of an increasingly mobilized population, the country’s political structures obstructed meaningful public life. As a result, citizen’s energies and interests were deflected into private associational activities, which were generally organized within rather than across group boundaries (i.e. were an example of ‘bonding’ rather than ‘bridging’).

*the vigour of civil society activities then continued to draw public interest and involvement away from parties and politics, further sapping their strength and significance.

Theda Skocpol and Morris P. Fiorina, (eds.), Civic Engagement in American Democracy (1999).

‘Summary: this is a collection of essays on civic engagement in the US. Some of these are quantitative, but most are qualitative. Specific findings are listed in the notes section below.


Important Insight: while American civic life remains relatively robust in comparative terms, there has been a notable shift towards groups that solicit money or try to add names to their membership list as against groups based in local chapters of more or less active members. Thus, the decline of civic life looks less pronounced if one counts organizations than if one gauges participation in the new universe of groups.


The reason for this is that these organizations are quite oligarchic, and in no way answerable to a mass membership base. Moreover, advocacy organizations have their own dynamic, which – in the search for the ‘drama and controversy’ they need to sustain themselves – impels them toward narrow stances and polarized positions.






*in a civic life dominated by staff led advocacy, ordinary people have little voice. Instead, under a ‘reconfigured class structure’ the managerial and professional stratum occupies key positions.

**this reshaping and partial decline of civic activity includes several elements:

*race is relevant insofar as legal integration may have had the perverse effect of weakening some national civic groups. Some whites withdraw from settings whose racial character can no longer be guaranteed.

*changing religious commitments: absent the great upsurge in evangelical denominations, religious would have surely declined. Yet these newer denominations make a more modest civic contribution than do the older variants of American Protestantism that they have replaced.

*persistent inequality: people with more resources are more civically engaged.

*in the introductory essay, Skocpol and Fiorina review three theories that posit alternative causes for ongoing transformations in civic life:

1) the social capital approach, which emphasizes socialization into the norms, networks, and cooperative actions seen as necessary for solving social problems.

2) the rational choice approach, which focuses on incentives for individual action.

3) the historical-institutional approach, which emphasizes changing organizational patterns, the resources available for collective action, and relationships between elites and the mass public.

*whereas Putnam emphasizes the role of social trust in fostering democracy, Skocpol points out that the creation and evolution of democratic regimes also is fostered by conflict and distrust.

*research in this volume makes clear that scholars who use different theoretical perspectives may reach differing conclusions about how voluntary associations affect civic life, social capital formation, and the operations of political institutions.

*several essays address the question of whether the associational life of American communities has increased or decreased over time or changed in other ways that significantly influence social capital formation and its effects on civic engagement:

*Dobkin Hill focuses on the community level, and analyzes trends in the population of organizations from 1850 to 1998 in New Haven, CT, and the implications of organizational change for patterns of civic engagement.

*he argues that the rise of tax-exempt nonprofit agencies devoted to delivering social services moves these social agencies away from reliance on membership relationships.

*chapters by Skocpol and by Clemen indicate that women’s voluntary associations have had significant effects on social welfare policy. They both highlight ways in which the institutions and activities of American government have influenced the identities, organizational forms, and strategies of voluntary associations at the centre of ‘civil society’, even as associations themselves have helped to transform public policies and the very ‘rules of the game’ in politics and governance.

*as Skocpol points out, this contrasts to Putnam’s conclusion that these associations had few effects on policies during the Progressive era.

*Clemen provides an historical analysis of the role of women’s groups in the transformation of American politics between 1890 and 1920. She reveals their role in political mobilization and shows how their structure and internal procedures affected both external perceptions of the organizations and patterns of interaction among them.

*multiple models of organizations – an ‘organizational repertoire’ – enabled challengers of the established political order to employ non-political models of organization.

*Berry addresses post-WWII patterns of citizen advocacy groups through an examination of their participation in congressional hearings on domestic social and economic policy as well as media coverage of group activity. His research suggests that growing membership in groups based in Washington reflects a shift from local voluntary organizations to national groups that focus on policy solutions at the national level.

*because such membership often entails little or no activity other than writing a cheque, the creation of social capital may be weakened.

*several chapters evaluate long-term changes in American society and their consequences for voluntary associations and civic engagement:

*Bint and Levy consider cultural and organizational changes among professionals.

*they argue that contemporary leaders of professional associations do not address society-wide civic values as much as their predecessors did. Professional engagement with public concerns is now more bureaucratized and compartmentalized.

*Crawford and Leviitt use the PTA for a case study.

*Ridlen Ray discusses the effects of changes in communications technology for group formation.

*argues that each wave of technological innovation in some ways facilitates, and in other ways undercuts, the social ties that undergird civic engagement.

*Wuthrow explores the effects of religious involvement on patterns of civic engagement.

* the newer (evangelical) religious denominations make a more modest civic contribution than do the older variants of American Protestantism that they have replaced. These denominations tend to channel *Skocpol examines changes over time in the universe of voluntary associations, with a focus on the withering of national membership federations and the development and growth of advocacy groups arising from social movements of the 60s.

*she attributes alterations to changes in the political opportunity structure, new methods and models for building and maintaining organizations, shifts in social class relationships, and evolving race relations and gender roles.

*an alternative approach for examining social capital formation is provided by Rahn, Brehm, and Carlson. They use survey data to examine how social capital may be generated through participation in a national election.

*they suggest that participation in the shared ritual and organized contention of national elections can strengthen Americans’ sense of political efficacy and social solidarity.

*patterns of civic engagement are generally assessed as a positive contribution to society, but negative consequences may flow from political participation.

*Fiorina points out possible negative consequences from activism by extremists. Argues that political participation tends to be dominated by extremists, rather than typical citizens, by people who are strongly issue-oriented in contrast with those who are often uninformed, somewhat indifferent, but nevertheless collectively solid.

*Schlozman, Verba, and Brady examine inequalities in civic participation and consider the biases that these bring to the political system.

Dietlind Stolle and Marc Hooghe, “Inaccurate, exceptional, one-sided or irrelevant? The debate about the alleged decline of social capital and civic engagement in Western democracies”, British Journal of Political Science 35 (2005), pp. 149-167.

‘Summary: this is a review article of the social capital debate. It addresses studies (such as Putnam’s Bowling Alone, 2000) that that not only describe and document an erosion of traditional integration mechanisms, but also interpret this evolution as a fundamental threat to the survival of healthy communities and democratic political systems (i.e. ‘the decline thesis’).



Important Insight: It presents four distinct modes of criticism of the decline thesis:


1) rejection of the thesis on empirical grounds. The available data simply do not support the decline thesis, and strong variations in social capital’s numerous aspects are possible across time and across societies – there is no general syndrome.

**calls for continuation and replication of already existing time-series.

2) empirical grounds are ok, but the decline thesis is not generalizable outside of the US. In other Western societies, social capital and civic engagement are not declining to the same extent as in the US. The available evidence does not suggest a broad, Western decline.

**calls for cross-national longitudinal studies.

3) while traditional forms of participation have declined, the decline thesis’ failure to incorporate new forms of participation and interaction that fulfil the same functions with regard to socialization and interest mediation.

*the problem with this argument as that systematic evidence on the new forms of involvement has yet to be collected, and thus studies in this field are often anecdotal in nature. What’s more, new forms of participation are potentially less collective and group-oriented in character (e.g. ethical consumerism, passive membership in cheque-book organizations).

*calls for the development of new survey questions and instruments that adequately measure these new forms.

4) while the decline thesis is correct, its normative consequences are not. The decline of traditional participation formats is seen as largely irrelevant for the future of democratic systems. Post-modernization erodes respect for authority, but increases support for democracy.

*calls for further research at the macro-level, and a re-invigoration of the old governability debate.

Nancy Bermeo and Philip Nord, (eds.) Civil Society Before Democracy: Lessons from nineteenth century Europe. (2000).

‘Summary:  examines the development and emergence of civil society in 19th century Europe (examines the period between 1815 and 1918). The focus here is on the evolution of autonomous social actors in Western Europe beginning with the emergence of 19th century liberalism. The main question considered in the essays is how the emergence of civil society affected the transformation of liberalism into mass democracy; the cases are divided according to whether the transition to mass democracy was successful (UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands) or initially failed (Portugal, Russia, Italy and Germany).


Method: a series of individual case studies.


Important Insight: there are three main variables that emerge from the essays: integration of the countryside, religion, and institutional strength. Several broad lessons emerge from the essays:

*first, civil society is not inexorably linked to democracy, but historically has emerged in concert with several other forms of regime including monarchy, oligarchic liberalism, and mild or enfeebled types of authoritarianism.

*second, civil society is not always good for democracy. Sometimes, in fact, its best organized elements may be ambivalent or even antithetic to democracy. Elements within civil society are often major players in its breakdown (e.g. Germany and Italy).

*third, the essays on the cases of failure all point out the difficulties in incorporating rural and traditional social formations into civil society. This observation both confirms and expands on the well-established insight that social formations with labour repressive and non-commercialized agriculture pose particular problems for democracy.

*fourth, the essays that discuss cases of democratic success show very diverse patterns. Clearly, there is no single pattern by which civil society successfully connects with a democratic regime and/or promotes it.

*fifth, the connection between state and civil society emerges as a key variable in whether civil society plays a constructive role in building democracy.






*why did democratic institutions take root in certain locales and not others, despite the flourishing of civil society? There are three main variables pointed to by the essays:

*the stable integration of the countryside into the civil life of the nation, since it affected whether small-town and small-owning constituencies could be called on to support the regime.

*religion played a role as well, with (despite the notable exception of Belgium) the new Catholic associationism at the fin de siècle standing in ambiguous and often hostile relations to the democratizing trends of the period – relations which were in large part reciprocated by the era’s liberals and democrats.

*it made a huge but not always decisive difference whether liberals and democrats bargained from a position of institutional strength. If they did, the challenge of mass politics proved that much less difficult to assimilate.

**several broad lessons emerge from the essays:

*first, civil society is not inexorably linked to democracy, but historically has emerged in concert with several other forms of regime including monarchy, oligarchic liberalism, and mild or enfeebled types of authoritarianism.

*in certain European cases civil society emerged or held its own during the age of reaction in the first part of the 19th century, thrived in concert with liberal hegemony, and re-emerged and challenged communism in its post-totalitarian phase.

*second, civil society is not always good for democracy. Sometimes, in fact, its best organized elements may be ambivalent or even antithetic to democracy. Elements within civil society are often major players in its breakdown (e.g. Germany and Italy).

*third, the essays on the cases of failure all point out the difficulties in incorporating rural and traditional social formations into civil society. This observation both confirms and expands on the well-established insight that social formations with labour repressive and non-commercialized agriculture pose particular problems for democracy.

*in Portugal, although liberalism and associational networks developed relatively early, subsequent popular mobilization against liberalism, combined with elite dependency on the state, had antidemocratic effects.

*in Russia, there was a weak development of association, related to the failure to free religion from state tutelage.

*in Italy, associations formed against the early liberal movement (Catholic, socialist, clientelist) undermined democratic potential.

*in Germany, a dense associational life, embedded in fractured subcultures, impeded democracy.

*fourth, the essays that discuss cases of democratic success show very diverse patterns. Clearly, there is no single pattern by which civil society successfully connects with a democratic regime and/or promotes it.

*Britain represents one of the classic cases of how an associational culture developed and expanded in a slow fashion.

*in France, civil society eventually thrived despite the periodic attempts of the upper and middle classes to impede the ability of other social actors to organize and the relatively late institutionalization of freedom of association.

*in Belgium and the Netherlands, democracy succeeded through the process of the ‘pillarization’ of civil society, which overcame potentially strong social division and impediments to democracy and a robust civil society.

*fifth, the connection between state and civil society emerges as a key variable in whether civil society plays a constructive role in building democracy.


*civil activism seems to come in bursts, and with each burst the mix of organizational forms mutates.

*the experience of 19th century Europe suggests that pressures to expand public participation and democratize public life sprang almost always from civic sources.

Filippo Sabetti, “Path dependency and civic culture: some lessons from Italy about interpreting social experiments”, Politics and Society 24 (1996), pp. 19-44.

‘Summary: critiques Putnam’s “Making Democracy Work.” Argues that Putnam’s narrow use of historical sources biased his findings since the literature he used in itself was marked by an anti-feudal, anti-Southern bias. What’s more, Putnam’s path dependency approach creates serious limitations in his study.


Important Insight: Sabetti examines and criticizes Putnam’s argument on the basis of three of fundamental tenets to his claim:

*1) “the Italian regional experiment was a ‘natural’ experiment” (20)

*2) “patterns of civic culture best, or decisively, explain differential effectiveness of the regions” (20)

*3) “modern social patterns are plainly traceable to the monarchical and republican regimes of medieval times” (20)






*Sabetti argues that Putnam’s historical analysis has two major problems;

  1. a) his narrow use of historical sources biased his findings since the literature he used was itself marked by an anti-feudal, anti-Southern bias (25)

**in addition, he does not deal with the existence of civil society and social civic practices in 19th  and even 20th century Southern Italy (and indeed past then), nor does he consider the role the national government played in dissolving the 19th century social civic assets by either nationalizing or privatizing them (see 31-32)

**he also fails to account for the importance of the Church, particularly in the South, with regards to developing civic community (see 35-37)

  1. b) Putnam’s path dependency approach prevented him from considering “(1) that the roots of civic cultures throughout Italy are much older than medieval times; (2) that civic traditions were not entirely extinguished in the south by the creation of the medieval kingdom, just as they were not entirely extinguished in the north by the dissolution of city republics; and (3) that the civic practices and civicness of any area are more fluctuating than the logic of path dependency would lead us to believe.” (26-27)

*lastly, Sabetti argues that the regional government experiment was not a natural one, since the regions drawn up in the North tended to be historic entities while in the South they were frequently “arbitrary administrative contrivances” (39)

Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (1993), Chapters 1, 6.

‘Summary: looks at variations in the performance of Italian regional governments. Argues that low levels of social capital (variation in political culture) in a region lead to inefficient regional governments; the variation in political culture is then traced back to the Middle Ages.


Method: a so-called “natural experiment” – studies the performance of Italian regional governments following their formation in 1970, arguing that this introduction of a new level of government allows a perfect testing ground for determining the “conditions for creating strong, responsive, effective representative institutions” (6) since “institutional design was held constant” (10)


Critiques: theoretically, Putnam’s argument has two major weaknesses: first, he offers little to account for the persistence of traits that he argues characterized different Italian regions for about seven hundred years (historical validity) and the choice of the Middle Ages as THE point of origin seems rather arbitrary; second, social capital may be endogenous to institutional performance rather than a cause of it.


Also, Jackson and Miller (1996) examine the validity of Putnam’s statistical claims, and find that there is “very little indication from the Italian data to suggest that institutional performance depends in any appreciable manner on cultural traditions. While there is a statistical justification for the measures of civic community developed by Putnam, those measures do not address distributions of cultural values directly. More troubling is the fact that the measure of performance cannot be justified even on statistical grounds. As a result, these data provide no warrant for linking cultural values to political performance.” (644-645)


Also, see Sabetti (1996).





In Making Democracy Work, Putnam performs a study of the performance of Italian regional government performance following their formation in 1970, arguing that this introduction of a new regional level of government allows a perfect testing ground for determining the “conditions for creating strong, responsive, effective representative institutions.” (6, 10) Since he views the institutions introduced as being identical across the fifteen regions (excluding the five semi-autonomous regions with their variations in powers), Putnam is able to hold institutions constant.  As such, any variation cannot be institutional in nature and must be explained by some other variable.


Putnam carries out this study over two decades using a combination of surveys, interviews, statistical measures of institutional performance, analysis of legislation and a somewhat unorthodox investigative measure which involves the submission of fake inquiries to monitor difficulties in having complaints dealt with. (13-14) He finds that there is indeed considerable variation in the performance of regions, and that this variation occurs largely on a North-South divide. He explains this divide using the notion of political culture, arguing that if regional governments perform badly, it is because citizens have inadequate levels of trust, and society a low level of social capital. Much of this problem relates to a fundamental problem of collective action. While the North was able to overcome this problem horizontally, the South dealt with it using sub-optimal vertical measures. He traces the origin of these variations in social capital back to different forms of government in the Middle Ages (republican in the North and monarchical in the South). Since trust and civic engagement are seen as self-reinforcing, these traditions continued over time.


Putnam sums the logic of his argument up thusly:

“On the demand side, citizens in civic communities expect better government and (in part through their own efforts), they get it. They demand effective public service, and they are prepared to act collectively to achieve their shared goals. Their counterparts in less civic regions more commonly assume the role of alienated and cynical supplicants. On the supply side, the performance of representative government is facilitated by the social infrastructure of civic communities and by the democratic values of both officials and citizens. Most fundamental to the civic community is the social ability to collaborate for shared interests. Generalized reciprocity… generates high social capital and underpins collaboration.” (182-183)

As such, Putnam notes the importance of the initial, self-reinforcing conditions on the current levels of policy efficiency, and democracy more generally. The key to making democracy work is the social capital created by civic culture, activities and associations.