Since the publication of Robert Putnam's "Making Democracy Work," the concept of social capital has achieved a new prominence in the social science community. This essay explores the causal linkages among the key analytical concepts presented in Robert Putnam's "Making Democracy Work" in an effort to further the social capital research agenda that the book initiates. We show why different kinds of associations can be expected to have different social capital–building capacities and different implications for cooperation within the larger community. We suggest that the microlinkages between social capital and good government in "Making Democracy Work" are underspecified and we present four models of how social cooperation at the level of the community translates into good performance at the level of political institutions. We identify the absence of political conflict as a peculiar feature of Putnam's account of Italian politics and history, and we explore the implications of its absence for the theoretical conclusions Putnam reaches and the generalizability of the findings he presents. We examine the relationship between social capital and economic performance and show why Putnam's work has important contributions to make to this field. Finally, we explain why Putnam's findings may not travel well outside of the Italian regions he studies.
Working Paper 96–04, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1996.