Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


In recent years both scholars and policymakers have expressed a remarkable amount of interest in the concepts of social capital and civil society. A growing body of research suggests that the social networks, community norms, and associational activities signified by these concepts can have important effects on social welfare, political stability, economic development, and governmental performance. We will examine the roles played by these networks, norms, and organizations in outcomes ranging from local public goods provision and the performance of democracies to ethnic conflict and funding for terrorism. This course is designed to:

  • Familiarize students with the existing theoretical literature and empirical research.
  • Trace the historical evolution of these concepts and examine their application in different cultural contexts.
  • Evaluate recent research on the effects that civil society and social capital have on a variety of political and economic outcomes.
  • Equip students with the background and tools to contribute original research on these issues.

Disscussion and Assignments

Everyone is expected to complete the vast majority of required reading before class every week and to contribute actively to class discussions. “Cold calls” may therefore sometimes be used, although comments contributed will only help, and not hurt, one’s grade.

Participants will write three short response papers (750-1000 words) that critically discuss a given week’s readings. You may also write more than three papers and drop the least successful one from your grade. All papers are due on the Monday preceding class. To ensure unbiased grading, please put your name on a separate page at the end of the paper.

Each seminar participant is also expected to serve as discussion leader for a class session in a week for which they have not written a response paper.

Finally, participants will write a research proposal (3500-4000 words) for an original research project. The proposal should review the relevant theoretical literature, assessing existing approaches to the research question; derive testable hypotheses to be evaluated in the proposed project; and describe a methodology for testing these hypotheses. A 1-2 page prospectus for this proposal is due in class on Week #8. The research proposal is due six days after Week #13.


Response Papers and Class Participation 60%
Research Proposal 40%

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples