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.

Cover Image of Beyond Tocqueville: Civil Society and the Social Capital Debate in Comparative Perspective
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

Bob Edwards is Assistant Professor of Sociology at East Carolina University. Michael W. Foley is Associate Professor of Politics at Catholic University of America. Mario Diani is Professor of Sociology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

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