In This Review

Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy

Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy
By Robert Putnam
258 pp, Princeton University Press, 1993

The timing for the title and subtitle of this book could hardly be more inappropriate, yet this excellent work may have relevance to today's unprecedented crisis in Italian politics. Putnam, a Harvard political scientist, and his collaborators studied the functioning of regional councils established in Italy in the early 1970s in a period of limited devolution. The book is the result of interviews and polling over two decades, done in meticulous social science fashion. Putnam's political intelligence and mastery of traditional and modern literature places the quantitative material in a splendid intellectual framework. Regional councils have had mixed results, "exacerbating ... the historical disparities between North and South." The recent success of the Lombard League is an important example of the centrifugal forces in Italian politics. The principal focus of the work is on the relation of civic culture to political life; the greater the civic commitment, the better the chances for responsible and responsive government. Putnam locates the greatest civisme in the north, where republican regimes flourished long ago. Making Democracy Work is intended as a close study of politics in contrasting regions of Italy, with persuasive theoretical conclusions that bear on the development of democracy elsewhere. The author did not predict the revelations of general corruption in Italian politics, but any student of contemporary affairs would do well to read this difficult but immensely rewarding work.