Tito Boeri, Prachi Mishra, Chris Papageorgiou, Antonio Spilimbergo, 11 January 2019

The claim by populist leaders to have a monopoly on representing ‘the people’ stands in contrast with the concept of liberal democracy, which is based on pluralism where different groups represent different interests and values. Using data from several waves of the European Social Survey, this column demonstrates that individuals who belong to associations are less likely to vote for populist parties. Alexis de Tocqueville appears to have been right when he wrote almost two centuries ago that civil society is a key defence of liberal democracy.

Hans-Joachim Voth, Nico Voigtländer, Shanker Satyanath, 05 August 2013

The collapse of the Weimar Republic was a turning point in world history, bringing the murderous Nazi regime to power. This column argues that contrary to most conceptions of social capital, there can be negative outcomes to well-connected societies. Independent of ideology, dense social networks in interwar Germany greatly helped the Nazi party to rapidly and widely disseminate its messages. Putnam’s claims about the benefits of social capital for democracy need to be reassessed.

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