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Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy Paperback – Jun 16 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (June 16 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691037388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691037387
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #107,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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This is a great example of thorough and legitimate methodological research and quantitative analysis. A brilliant example for all political scientists to strive for.

The work itself is very interesting, independent of the methodology the writing itself is quite easy to read, and an interesting topic to engage in. If you're fascinated with why some governments succeed where others fail, this a brilliant work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ChairmanLuedtke on Feb. 22 2001
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 7 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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