Of Time and Causality: A Simple Test of the Requirement of Social Capital in Making Democracy Work in Italy

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Abstract

Using survey data from The Civic Culture study, this research note revisits the idea that institutional development across the regions of Italy differs because of varying levels of social capital. The findings indicate that – according to the earliest survey data available from Italy – it is unlikely that differences in the development of regional institutions between the North and the South were a result of differences in social capital between the two regions. The article ultimately contends that social capital is likely to be important for institutional (and economic) development, but that (a) it does not appear to be a prerequisite for either and that (b) it can develop far more quickly than expected; this implies that impersonal trust and a participatory culture are not resources that societies must wait for several centuries to acquire, but that perhaps they can be fostered by the development of powerful democratic institutions.

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