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Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany, 1919-33

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  • Shanker Satyanath
  • Nico Voigtländer
  • Hans-Joachim Voth

Abstract

Social capital – a dense network of associations facilitating cooperation within a community – typically leads to positive political and economic outcomes, as demonstrated by a large literature following Putnam. A growing literature emphasizes the potentially "dark side" of social capital. This paper examines the role of social capital in the downfall of democracy in interwar Germany by analyzing Nazi party entry rates in a cross-section of towns and cities. Before the Nazi Party’s triumphs at the ballot box, it built an extensive organizational structure, becoming a mass movement with nearly a million members by early 1933. We show that dense networks of civic associations such as bowling clubs, animal breeder associations, or choirs facilitated the rise of the Nazi Party. The effects are large: Towns with one standard deviation higher association density saw at least one-third faster growth in the strength of the Nazi Party. IV results based on 19th century measures of social capital reinforce our conclusions. In addition, all types of associations – veteran associations and non-military clubs, "bridging" and "bonding" associations – positively predict NS party entry. These results suggest that social capital in Weimar Germany aided the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s first democracy.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 703.

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Date of creation: Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:703

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Keywords: social capital; democracy; political economy; Weimar Germany; Nazi Party;

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Cited by:
  1. Marco Paccagnella & Paolo Sestito, 2014. "School cheating and social capital," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 952, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  2. Margarita Gáfaro & Ana Maria Ibáñez & Patricia Justino, 2014. "Collective Action and Armed Group Presence in Colombia," HiCN Working Papers 178, Households in Conflict Network.
  3. Pauline Grosjean, 2013. "Conflict and Social and Political Preferences: Evidence from World War II and Civil Conflict in 35 European countries," Discussion Papers 2013-29, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.

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