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

By Robert D. Putnam | Go to book overview

3
UNITED STATES:
From Membership
to Advocacy
THEDA SKOCPOL

Americans take great pride in their democratic accomplishments— and also worry about them more than any other people on earth. Changes since the 1960s preoccupy the worriers right now, and much discussion focuses on whether Americans are dropping out of voluntary associations or creating very different kinds of groups. This focus in hardly surprising, because the United States has long been known as a “nation of joiners, ” as Arthur Schlesinger put it in a famous 1944 article. 1 If participation in voluntary groups is no longer so prevalent, then late-twentieth-century America could be experiencing a worrisome sea change.

Schlesinger was writing in a well-worn vein. Visiting the fledgling U.S. republic way back in the 1830s, the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville declared in words that have been quoted again and again that “Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations…. [I] f they want to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling by the encouragement of great example, they form an association…. [A] t the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find an association.” 2 In effect, Tocqueville described a nation of organizers as well as joiners. His Democracy in America portrayed voluntary groups

-103-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Democracies in Flux 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Role of Government and the Distribution of Social Capital 21
  • 2 - Bridging the Privileged and the Marginalized? 59
  • 3 - From Membership to Advocacy 103
  • 4 - Old and New Civic and Social Ties in France 137
  • 5 - The German Case 189
  • 6 - Social Capital in Spain from the 1930s to the 1990s 245
  • 7 - Social Capital in the Social Democratic State 289
  • 8 - Making the Lucky Country 333
  • 9 - Broadening the Basis of Social Capital in Japan 359
  • Conclusion 393
  • Notes 417
  • Contributors 493
  • Index 497
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