Re-examining a modern classic: does Putnam's Making Democracy Work suffer from spuriousness?

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What makes democratic institutions work efficiently? Robert Putnam argued in Making Democracy Work that a mixture of political participation and immersion in associative and social networks in the community, conceptualised as ‘civic community’ or ‘social capital’, is the explanation. Ever since its publication, many questions have arisen about the validity of Putnam's theory. Among the most relevant concerns stands the influence of the Italian Communist Party on Putnam's empirical tests. This paper aims to fill the gap left in the literature by testing Putnam's hypothesis against the political party in the regional government and the PCI's electoral support. Supporting Putnam, this paper finds that variations in the quality of democratic governments in Italy's regions are a function of civic community even after adjusting for the presence of the Italian Communist Party.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-471
Number of pages15
JournalModern Italy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2014


  • Italian Communist Party
  • Putnam
  • civic community
  • democracy
  • social capital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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