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Anti-social capital

Robert Putnam has become an academic celebrity in the US with his views on the decline of civic virtue. Nicholas Lemann says that his ideas are popular because they are politically convenient

Why is there such a wide variation in the social and economic health of different regions and ethnic groups and, for that matter, of different societies all over the world?

A Harvard professor, Robert Putnam, has come up with an answer which has aroused academic and political interest on both sides of the Atlantic. It came to him, curiously, studying Italian local government.

Putnam discovered that local authorities in the prosperous north of Italy outperformed the ones in the benighted south. In itself this is not surprising, but the reasons given by Putnam are. In Making Democracy Work, he showed…

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