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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).
This work became the book, The Beliefs of Politicians.
Published in 1973 it was to establish him as a major figure in his discipline.
He adopted the faith, particularly attracted by the ‘unique and intense of community’ he found among Jews (Appleyard 2001).
Graduating from Swarthmore with a bachelor of arts degree with highest honours in 1963, Robert Putnam went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford – where he spent a good deal of time with David Butler and Donald Stokes, (who were writing Political Change in Britain at the time). There he earned a master’s in 1965 and a doctorate in 1970.
I gradually moved from physics to chemistry to biology and finally majored in psychology, but in my senior year I decided I was really interested in political science….
Following graduation, he joined the University of Michigan faculty, becoming a full professor of political science in 1975.
His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a builder.
Port Clinton was ‘pretty unremarkable’ but ‘a good place in which to grow up’ according to Robert Putnam.
Based on a study of Italian politics and, in particular, the experience of the move to regional government post-1970, this book displays a number of the classic Robert Putnam hallmarks. As I was finishing my book on Italy, it occurred to me that what I was finding out as a scholar of Italian politics was connected to what worried me as an American citizen — namely, the sense that our national experiment in democratic self- government is faltering.
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.