IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Making Social Science Work Across Space and Time: A Critical Reflection on Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work


  • Tarrow, Sidney


Political scientists are becoming more self-conscious about how they connect quantitative and qualitative data in social science and about the role of systematic country studies in comparative research. As the most striking example of both practices in recent years, Robert Putnam and his collaborators' Making Democracy Work deserves more serious criticism than it has received. While Putnam's original project aimed at a precise goal—studying how a new administrative reform is institutionalized—his ultimate project aimed at nothing less than examining how differently democracy works in different sociopolitical contexts, operationalized cross-sectionally in southern and northern Italy. The sources of these differences he found in the two regions' histories, which led him to employ the quantitative interregional data he had collected for one purpose to support a model of historical development of North and South. This historical reconstruction rests largely on qualitative data; but it also rests on a set of comparative inferences about individual values and community cohesiveness in the two regions that is of questionable historical validity and innocent of structural grounding. This article applauds Putnam's joining qualitative and quantitative data but attacks his reconstruction of Italian history to fit his model of social capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Tarrow, Sidney, 1996. "Making Social Science Work Across Space and Time: A Critical Reflection on Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 90(2), pages 389-397, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:02:p:389-397_20

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to article abstract page
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Katherine Rankin, 2002. "Social Capital, Microfinance, and the Politics of Development," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(1), pages 1-24.
    2. Sjoerd Beugelsdijk & Sjak Smulders, 2003. "Bridging and Bonding Social Capital: which type is good for economic growth?," ERSA conference papers ersa03p517, European Regional Science Association.
    3. Fabio Sabatini, 2005. "The empirics of social capital and economic development. A critical perspective," Development and Comp Systems 0512015, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Christos J. Paraskevopoulos, 2007. "Social Capital and Public Policy in Greece," GreeSE – Hellenic Observatory Papers on Greece and Southeast Europe 09, Hellenic Observatory, LSE.
    5. John Harriss & Paolo De Renzio, 1997. "POLICY ARENA: 'Missing link' or analytically missing?: The concept of social capital. Edited by John Harriss. An introductory bibliographic essay," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(7), pages 919-937.
    6. Kalischer Wellander, Benjamin & Sanandaji, Tino, 2018. "Tracing the Historic Roots of Generalized Trust," SSE Working Paper Series in Economic History 2018:1, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 10 May 2018.
    7. Sabatini, Fabio, 2006. "The Empirics of Social Capital and Economic Development: A Critical Perspective," Knowledge, Technology, Human Capital Working Papers 12097, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    8. Margit Mayer, 2003. "The onward sweep of social capital: causes and consequences for understanding cities, communities and urban movements," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(1), pages 110-132, March.
    9. Ganz, Marshall Louis & Skocpol, Theda & Munson, Ziad, 2000. "A Nation of Organizers: The Institutional Origins of Civic Voluntarism in the United States," Scholarly Articles 12641806, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Fabio Sabatini, 2004. "Il rapporto tra Economia e Società nella ricerca sul capitale sociale. Un tentativo di impostazione contabile e una classificazione “funzionale” della letteratura," Others 0411005, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S. & Huck, Steffen, 2001. "More Order with Less Law: On Contract Enforcement, Trust, and Crowding," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(1), pages 131-144, March.
    12. Boschma, Ron, 2000. "An Empirical Analysis Of The Industrial Rise Of The Third Italy," ERSA conference papers ersa00p114, European Regional Science Association.
    13. Paul S. Adler, 2001. "Market, Hierarchy, and Trust: The Knowledge Economy and the Future of Capitalism," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(2), pages 215-234, April.
    14. Fabio Sabatini, 2005. "The empirics of social capital and economic development: a critical perspective," Development and Comp Systems 0512008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Stefano Passini & Davide Morselli, 2017. "Construction and Validation of the Moral Inclusion/Exclusion of Other Groups (MIEG) Scale," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 134(3), pages 1195-1213, December.
    16. Boschma, Ron, 1999. "Culture of "trust" and regional development : an empirical analysis of Third Italy," ERSA conference papers ersa99pa009, European Regional Science Association.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:02:p:389-397_20. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Keith Waters). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.