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Politics Essays - Making Democracy Work

Making Democracy Work

A Overview of Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work


Since its publication in 1993, Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work: Civic Practices in Modern Italy has been hailed for changing just how academics and policy-makers plan the relationship between politics and contemporary society. Putnam accomplishes this feat not really much with his powerful arguments, but with the innovative methodology he utilizes.

Much attention was already given to just how Putnam combines quantitative and qualitative data in his research; he amalgamates numerical data on Italian institutional performance and civic culture, with the path-dependent historical legacy that predates it. In the same way, much attention in addition has been focused on the introduction of social capital as a new variable worthy of social experts' concern. Since these subject areas have been completely exhausted in reviews and also other literature connected to Putnam's publication, this article will try to go a new route.

This article will primarily dispute that Putnam has efficiently managed to combine both a structure and agency-centered way into a cohesive research design project. First of all, the structural way is natural in Putnam's research because of the fact that he is attempting to examine why Italian locations with the same political structure perform in different ways. Second of all, using network research, Putnam's sociable capital and civic culture parameters will be realized to be related to organization - and of affecting institutional performance. Finally, the entire talents and weakness that arise from combining both approaches in a study design project will be outlined. Overall, despite several unavoidable limitations, to make Democracy Work Putnam shows that using a put together structuration strategy is with the capacity of harvesting a fuller understanding of a particular issue - in this case, Italian institutional performance.

The Study and the Setting:

In 1970 the highly centralized Italian federal set-up identical regional governmental institutions in each one of the country's twenty regions. The test offered Robert Putnam and his co-workers a unique chance to analyze institutional performance as time passes, and what precisely makes federal work in a environment where nationwide factors and institutional design are performed constant.

Despite the fact that the Italian regions got identical organizations, the performance of the institutions varied broadly across Italy. The discrepancy between the regions - specifically between the North and the South - led Putnam to believe that "social framework and background profoundly condition the potency of organizations" (Putnam, 182). Therefore, in the causal discussion that Putnam sets forth in order to explain what influences institutional performance, establishments are framed as both an unbiased and dependent variable. So to speak, even though organizations do shape politics, companies themselves are shaped by social framework and history. For this reason, Putnam considers yet another independent changing in his complex causal marriage - civic culture.

Putnam's Methodology:

Before inspecting how composition and company unite, and the way in which civic culture is assessed to make Democracy Work, it is worthwhile to look into the broader - and overarching - methodological backdrop on the grounds of which Robert Putnam's analysis takes root.

The setting up for the study, as alluded to above, offered Robert Putnam and his colleagues the chance to embark on a twenty season voyage of inquiry; their choice of vessel, a sub-national evaluation. Certainly with the case of Italian institutional performance a sub-national matched comparison is sure to show more illuminating than a cross-national comparability because one can hold-constant for nationwide context. That said, it's important to notice that often when one considers cultural, historical, monetary and/or socioeconomic conditions, there will invariably be instances where greater variation is available within countries than will between them (Snyder, 96).

The connection with Italy provides a unique backdrop for Putnam to review institutional performance because many factors are performed constant, relatively speaking. Aside from holding institutional design constant, Italy is a far less diverse country than say India or even Russia in relation to language, religion, ethnicity, course and caste. Though it could demonstrate hard for Putnam's solutions to travel beyond a European context and be directly applied, it should not be kept against him or discredit his publication by any means.

Just because the arguments may have difficulty going (and we should remember that Putnam's arguments to make Democracy Work are the underpinnings of his second e book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community) does not mean that they must be judged negatively. After all, this is actually the precise reason for a sub-national paired comparison - to develop ideas or generalizations that certain struggles to make through cross-national combined comparisons due to all or any the intervening variables that cannot be kept constant.

Furthermore, Making Democracy Work will not qualify only as a sub-national paired contrast. Putnam really checks his arguments against a broad spectrum. By doing this, he avoids the common problem of selection bias, and - derivatively - of false dichotomies. Putnam will not pick and choose the locations he includes in his analysis. Making Democracy Work is comprehensive in that it includes and considers all the areas in Italy evenly, and weighs in at them against the same credo (where information enables).

In each region Putnam interprets quantitative data on institutional performance and then analyzes it alongside quantitative data regarding its civic culture. He then pushes the envelope by reaching far-beyond immediate causal inference and into record. The historical qualitative data that Putnam accumulates, allows him, ostensibly, to isolate the primary factor that contributes to variance in institutional performance in North and Southern Italy - interpersonal capital.

Making Democracy Work benefits from diverse measurements - the signals used are wide-ranging, progressive, impressive, and provide for a superior demonstration of Putnam's quarrels. In fact, it's the combination of both the quantitative and qualitative data that earn Robert Putnam and Making Democracy Work the popularity of being simultaneously both a large-N and small-N sub-national contrast.

Structural Makes:

Having organized the methodological construction that Putnam is rolling out it is currently possible to focus on the structuration procedure that he incorporates. The explanation of institutional performance - the dependent variable - is contingent to a certain degree over a structural analysis.

While all the areas in Italy are constrained by the same nationwide structural drive - the highly centralized federal government, the areas are also constrained by their own historical legacies and the constructions that have surfaced from the past. With this sense, corresponding to Putnam, the annals of the North has cultivated an area/structure a lot more conducive to proper institutional performance than has the South.

Putnam decides twelve indications as evidence of institutional performance, or "good authorities". These indications include: Cabinet stability, budget promptness, statistical and information services, reform legislation, legislative creativity, day attention centers, family clinics, industrial policy instruments, agricultural spending capacity, local health device expenditures, casing and metropolitan development and bureaucratic responsiveness.

Far from agency-centered, the conditions of the indicators are dependant on the structure where they are simply situated. Essentially, the greater the influence of the composition, a lot more predictable the political behaviour may very well be. Pursuing Putnam's path-dependent argument that historical legacies condition the structural pushes (which come to light from such signals), it's important to then consider the nature of the historical legacies themselves. In Putnam's view the historical legacies worthy of checking out are those of civic culture.

Analyzing the Influences Agency:

The affects of company on Italian institutional performance is not analyzed explicitly in Making Democracy Work. Putnam does not look at individual leaders, regional associates, or even important citizens in any of Italy's diverse areas - contemporarily nor historically. However, implicit in his meaning of civic culture, as the "norms of reciprocity and sites of civic proposal" (Putnam, 167) can be an understanding of organization nonetheless. If company is based on the actions and decisions of an individual, it must be based on the relationships and collective wills of many people.

A horizontal-network analysis is an excellent method of take when attempting to understand the influences of organization in regional patterns of habit. From a nominalist perspective the researcher must use a conceptual platform to identify the limitations of the network - or who/what is and is not contained in the research agenda.

For his part, Putnam proposes four signals in which one can find evidence of a civic culture; these indications include participation in voluntary organizations, paper readership, referenda turnout, and customized inclination voting (or absence thereof). Even though groups like football clubs are internally heterogeneous and diverse, network examination helps Putnam to disentangle the natural complexity also to highlight the top aspects of functioning as a group.

To the idea of emphasis, the actual fact that Putnam also correlates these "objective" actions with more opinion-based survey indicators of civic culture goes to show that Putnam is committed to combining the role of company in his research design. Essentially, he steps from a nominalist to a far more realist network evaluation by concentrating on the individuals. More specifically, Putnam shows that network boundaries are established based on the subjective perspectives of the network stars themselves. Because of this, the data in his research is based to large level on studies, questionnaires and interviews.

The difference between your North and the South of Italy therefore, can be expressed in the several types of systems they produce. Putnam considers all of the following: the several types of networks that exist, the organization of the sites, and the individuals within the systems. Relating to the various types of networks, Putnam notices that the thickness of systems in the North is a lot greater than in the South.

Not only do more communal groups can be found in the North, but membership in them is better and the routine of ties between your members is more robust. With regards to the networks' firm, in the North there is a higher rate of recurrence of discussion, and a larger amount of psychological investment within the network. Last but not least, as far as individuals are concerned, Putnam talks about subjective procedures like trust, solidarity, personal closeness and ideological closeness to in the end discern that in North Italy individuals are more likely to enter horizontal-networks and develop a more cohesive civic culture that fosters responsive federal government and higher institutional performance.

Strengths and Weakness of Structuration:

In a feeling, Putnam has put together a structural and company approach into a single research design. The structuration way has several durability and weaknesses worth highlighting, particularly with regards to Making Democracy Work. Perhaps the major benefit for combining the examination of composition and agency regarding Italian institutional performance is that Putnam can recognize and demonstrate the interplay between your two.

Putnam shows how structures and realtors are co-determining and mutually implicating. When assessing the causal relationship between civic culture and Italian institutional performance the situation is manufactured that both entities are described by their internal relationship, such that the two entities derive their meaning by their romance and also have no interpretation or basis with no other. People produce the framework, and the composition subsequently reproduces folks. As they say, agents and buildings are ontologically identical in Making Democracy Work.

Inherit in this methodological approach's most significant strength is also its ideal weakness. One of the major issues with operationalizing the structuration approach is that it's often difficult to design a study strategy that can sketch valid causal inferences. Much like the case of earning Democracy Work, the difficulty in making inferences is deciding whether something is a reason or an impact - there must be a starting point for an examination.

One inevitably has to choose a bottom-up or top-down approach dealing with either agent or composition as ontologically primitive. Robert Putnam, by discerning them ontologically equivalent has didn't choose a starting point for analysis. Instead of a parsimonious and simple linear causal romantic relationship, Putnam details to vicious and virtuous circles which may have resulted in contrasting, path centered public equlibria (Putnam, 180). Good or bad institutional performance will further continue a brief history of good or bad civic culture. Way more, the correlation between civic organizations and social capital that Putnam professes is also circular:

While to believe purely in terms of linear causation is to do injustice to the overall interconnectedness of the parameters, the danger of thinking in terms of equilibria is the fact that you create a 'rooster or egg' scenario. One begins to beg the question of where ever sold it is to draw the series when studying Italian civic culture?

Indeed, Putnam's historical record is just about the focus of extensive criticism from scholars. Sidney Tarrow, in "Making Social Research Work across Time and Space", contends that sociable researchers go to history with a theory to demonstrate, and do not objectively derive feasible generalizations from record. Record requires picking and choosing; one must even choose where in history to sketch the line before you begin a study. However, when a line can continually be drawn back further one must ask whether cases can really be isolable and independent whatsoever.

For example, can the circumstance not be produced that because the North of Italy colonized the South, that the issues of the South are really the issues of the North? Some critics say that it's unfair for Putnam to displace the situation of poor institutional performance on the South rather than to consider the likelihood of contaminants.

However, Putnam can rarely be criticized for this - everything can be comprehended as ex post facto another thing. Whether Putnam is right or incorrect on where ever sold he draws his line, Making Democracy Work should be hailed because of its attempt to - regardless of its actual success at - combining quantitative and qualitative data, and structure and firm, in creating a complex causal romantic relationship.


In Making Democracy Work: Civic Customs in Modern Italy, Robert Putnam has effectively were able to unite both a large-N and small-N sub-national assessment into an individual model of inquiry. Just as impressive, he has successfully managed to incorporate both a framework and agency-centered approach into a cohesive research design task. Putnam uses a structural method of analyze his reliant variable - politics corporations, and an agency-centered method of analyze an unbiased variable that has an affect on the development of political institutions and their efficiency - civic culture.

In so doing, Putnam manages to turn politics institutions into an independent variable too, highlighting the interconnectedness of both variables. Because of this interconnected circular dynamics of Putnam's argument, Putnam's research of Italian institutional performance, though both descriptive and predictive, lacks convincing prescriptive capacities. Nevertheless, despite its prescriptive shortcomings, Putnam implies that using a put together structuration strategy is capable of harvesting a fuller knowledge of a particular issue - in this case, Italian institutional performance.

Works Cited

Putnam, Robert D. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy(Princeton: Princeton University or college Press, 1993).

Snyder, Richard. "Scaling Down: The Subnational Comparative Method, " Studies in Comparative International Development 26:1 (Spring 2001), pp. 93-110.

Works Consulted

Dwainpayan, Bhattacharyya, et al. (eds. ) Interrogating Friendly Capital: The Indian Experience. (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004).

Furlong, Paul. "Review of: Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work: Civic Practices in Modern Italy, " International Affairs 70 (January 1994), pp. 172.

Kwon, Hyeong-Ki. "Associations, Civic Norms, and Democracy: Revisiting the Italian Case, " Theory and Population 33 (2004), pp. 135-166.

Levi, Margaret. "Social and Unsocial Capital: AN ASSESSMENT Essay of Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work, " Politics and Modern culture24 (March 1996), pp. 45-55.

Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of North american Community (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2000).

Sabetti, Filippo. "Path Dependency and Civic Culture: Some Lessons from Italy About Interpreting Community Experiments, " Politics and World 24 (March 1996), pp. 19-44.

Tarrow, Sidney. "Making Community Research Work Across Space and Time: A CRUCIAL Reflection on Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work, " North american Political Knowledge Review 90 (June 1996), pp. 389-397.

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