Sizing up Social Capital. A Dialogue with Robert Putnam


In a society which is highly diverse by way of race, religion, language and even nationalities, how important is it to develop the different forms of social capital? How important is it that it results in tangible social or economic benefits? What other modalities are there in fostering social capital? Spontaneous civil society activism is sometimes treated with suspicion. How do we know that we have ‘arrived’? These questions will be discussed at the roundtable.



Professor Robert D Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. He is also Visiting Professor and Director of the Manchester Graduate Summer Programme in Social Change, University of Manchester (UK). Prof Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006, Prof Putnam received the Skytte Prize, one of the world’s highest accolades for a political scientist. Raised in a small town in the Midwest and educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale, he has served as Dean of the Kennedy School of Government.

He has written a dozen books, translated into seventeen languages, including the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, and more recently Better Together: Restoring the American Community, a study of promising new forms of social connectedness. His previous book, Making Democracy Work, was praised by the Economist as “a great work of social science, worthy to rank alongside de Tocqueville, Pareto and Weber.” Both Making Democracy Work and Bowling Alonerank high among the most cited publications in the social sciences worldwide in the last several decades.

He consults widely with national leaders, including US Presidents Bush and Clinton, British Prime Ministers Blair and Brown, Ireland’s Bertie Ahern, and Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi. He founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal.

Thursday, 31 March 2011