Prof Robert Putnam Reflections on 30 Years of Social Capital Research and The Upswing

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In this special webinar hosted by the Social Capital Research Group, Professor Robert Putnam, a renowned scholar in the field of social capital, discusses the evolution of his work over the past 30 years. The webinar attracted nearly 2,000 participants from over 130 different countries, demonstrating the widespread interest in Bob’s work and the concept of social capital.

The Significance of Social Capital

Social capital refers to the networks, relationships, and trust that exist within a community. It plays a crucial role in fostering cooperation, promoting civic engagement, and contributing to the overall well-being of society. Professor Putnam’s work has focused on understanding the dynamics of social capital and its impact on various aspects of society, including democracy, civic engagement, and community development.

The Evolution of Professor Putnam’s Work

Professor Putnam’s journey in studying social capital began with his groundbreaking book, “Making Democracy Work,” which explored the variations in governance among different regions and why some places are better governed than others. This research led him to the concept of social capital and its influence on political systems.

Over the years, Professor Putnam published several influential books, including “Bowling Alone,” which highlighted the decline of social capital in America and its consequences for democracy. He also explored the impact of social capital on child development and educational outcomes in his book, “Our Kids.”

“The Upswing” – A New Perspective on Social Capital

In his latest book, “The Upswing,” Professor Putnam examines the trajectory of American society over the past century. He uncovers a pattern of social change characterized by a decline in social capital and community cohesion, followed by a period of polarization and individualism. However, he also identifies a potential path toward renewal and collective action.

“The Upswing” emphasizes the importance of collaboration and social solidarity in addressing societal challenges. Professor Putnam argues that by reinvigorating social capital, communities can overcome divisions and work towards a more equitable and inclusive future.

Open Q&A Session

Following his presentation, Professor Putnam answers questions from the participants. The questions cover a wide range of topics, including the measurement of social capital, strategies for building social cohesion, and the role of social media in shaping social capital.


Professor Robert Putnam’s research on social capital has significantly influenced our understanding of the importance of social connections and trust in society. From his early work on governance to his latest book, “The Upswing,” Professor Putnam highlights the transformative power of social capital and its potential to shape a more cohesive and resilient society.

The webinar organized by the Social Capital Research Group provided a platform for researchers, academics, and practitioners from around the world to engage with Professor Putnam’s insights and contribute to the ongoing discourse on social capital. The event exemplifies the global interest in social capital research and the collective effort to strengthen community ties and foster social cohesion.