Beyond Tocqueville

Civil Society and the Social Capital Debate in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Bob Edwards, Michael W. Foley, and Mario Diani

Recent discussion about the role of civil society in democratic governance around the world and the decline of social capital in the US has raised pressing theoretical and empirical questions about the character of contemporary societies and the social and institutional correlates of sound and dynamic democracies. This debate has reached a North American and European audience that extends well beyond academia. The predominant refrain in the debate, following Alexis de Tocqueville’s 160-year-old analysis of democracy in America, attaches tremendous importance to the role of voluntary associations in contemporary democracies. Participation in such groups is said to produce social capital, often linked to high levels of social trust. Social capital in turn is conceived as a crucial national resource for promoting collective action for the common good. Beyond Tocqueville presents 21 varied essays on how civic engagement and political and economic cooperation are generated in contemporary societies, linking theoretical discourse with public policy and actual behaviors.

Paper: $35
ISBN-13: 9781584651253
Pages: 352 | Size: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: May 1, 2001

“[A] wide-ranging book.”

The Well-Read Wonk


  • [A] wide-ranging book. It is full of ideas, and it ultimately leaves the reader with the lesson that 'social capital' can mean many things in many different situations – but it almost always contributes to the common good.

    The Well-Read Wonk

About the Author

Mario Diani

Mario Diani has been president of Euricse since June 2022. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Milan (1982) and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Turin (1987). A full professor of Sociology at the University of Trento since 2001, he was dean of the Faculty of Sociology from 2005-2008, and director of the Department of Sociology and Social Research from 2015-2021. Previously, he taught at Bocconi University in Milan (1988-1993), the University …

Michael W. Foley

Michael W. Foley is Associate Professor of Politics at Catholic University of America. He has previously published research on civil society and the emergence of new social movements in Mexico and El Salvador.

Bob Edwards

Bob Edwards is Assistant Professor of Sociology at East Carolina University.

Other Recent Titles

The Soiling of Old Glory

Louis P. Masur

Unlocking Learning

Edited by Justin McDevitt and Mneesha Gellman

Antisemitism and the Politics of History

Edited by Scott Ury and Guy Miron

We’re Here to Help

Diane Dimond

You Had a Job for Life

Jamie Sayen