The concept of ‘civil society’ [i.e., civic, social, religious, and professional organizations such as Parent-Teacher Associations, the League of Women Voters, community sports leagues, labor unions, churches, synagogues, etc.] has played a central role in the recent global debate about the preconditions for democracy and democratization. In the newer democracies this phrase has properly focused attention on the need to foster a vibrant civic life [i.e., lots of such organizations] in soils traditionally inhospitable to self-government [i.e., where relative lawlessness and disorder might otherwise have been expected to prevail]. In the established democracies, ironically, growing numbers of citizens are questioning the effectiveness of their public [i.e., government and civic] institutions.
— Robert Putnam
Part I will constitute about one-third of the grade for this paper. The quote above is from the Putnam reading. It was published in 1995, that is, before the widespread use of the worldwide web, blogging sites, internet discussion boards, the posting of reviews and responses on internet shopping sites such as Amazon.com, file sharing applications such as Napster/Limewire/BitTorrent and the like, user-created content sites such as Wikipedia and internet forums, Skype and other forms of video conferencing, professional and business contact-making through services such as LinkedIn, instant messaging and e-mail, huge advertisement listing services such as Craigslist and Google AdWords, social networking sites such as Facebook, and the newest types of internet publishing electronic services such as Wikipedia, Pininterest, Twitter, Vine, and Instagram.
Would Putnam consider Americans’ (never mind the rest of the worlds’) usage of such technology to constitute a reversal of the decline in social capital that he so bemoaned and feared? Why or why not? Your response should be about 300-500 words.
Uncited ideas, quotations, words, concepts, or methods of analysis will receive no credit and may constitute plagiarism. Please read NPC’s plagiarism policy and ask your professor if you are not sure how or when to cite sources, even your textbook or, in any case of very specific information (e.g., “as of 2010, 43% of Americans were using Facebook”), even class lectures.
Part II will constitute about two-thirds of the grade for this paper.
Let us assume that Putnam is correct in his view (which he expounds in greater detail in some of his other writings) that greater endowments of social capital in a country strengthen its democracy and promote more efficacious governance. For this second part of the assignment, you will select one of the middle or lower income countries that is discussed in chapters 11-17 in the textbook and give some examples of how an increase in its social capital might succeed in influencing it to become more democratic or further secure its democratic gains.
Your response will need to meet three requirements. First, it should mention some of the problems (those with the clearest connection to the country’s paucity of social capital) that would suggest that the country could use an injection of more social capital. Second, it should detail which kinds of civic, service, social, religious, or professional groups would strengthen social capital in those specific areas. And third, it must include a sentence for each such group postulating how each organization’s foundation, increased membership, and/or activities might promote democracy.
This second part of the assignment should be approximately 750-1,250 words. While the number, quality,
and variety of sources used are only one factor influencing this paper’s grade, especially diligent responses will include one or more outside sources (that is, beyond just the readings for this course), all cited appropriately.
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