Published in 1973 it was to establish him as a major figure in his discipline.Robert Putnam’s reputation was further strengthened by studies of political elites (1976) and summits (1984).In 1989, he was appointed dean of the Kennedy School of Government and Don K. He is now the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University – and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in American politics, international relations, comparative politics, and public policy. about things like the collapse of trust in public authorities.Early in the 1970s Putnam began a collaboration with Robert Lonardi and Raffaella Y. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, 75 percent of Americans said that they trusted their government to do the right thing.These include: sustained and detailed attention to empirical data; a commitment to producing material that could help with the task of enhancing the quality of social and political discourse; and grounded and accessible writing. So I started digging around about trends in civic engagement in America… (AHEE interview 1995)We are not talking here simply about nostalgia for the 1950s.The book’s concern with civic community and social capital was a direct precursor to Bowling Alone (1995, 2000) – Putnam’s very influential study of the decline in civic engagement in the United States. School performance, public health, crime rates, clinical depression, tax compliance, philanthropy, race relations, community development, census returns, teen suicide, economic productivity, campaign finance, even simple human happiness — all are demonstrably affected by how (and whether) we connect with our family and friends and neighbours and co-workers.Following graduation, he joined the University of Michigan faculty, becoming a full professor of political science in 1975.
However, his contribution to thinking about the nature of civic society – and its relation to political life is based on more than his analysis of US experience.
Born and raised in Port Clinton, Ohio, Robert Putnam is one of a long series of writers on community and civic participation that comes from a small town (John Dewey is a another famous example).
His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a builder.
His family had been moderate Republican and Methodist, but his political and religious commitments were to not to be the same.
Putnam went to Swarthmore College, Philadelphia – the Quaker higher education institution known for its liberalism, commitment to social involvement and intellectual rigour. Swarthmore was the greatest intellectual influence on my life.
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