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Democracy, Social Capital and Unity of Law: Some Lessons from Italy about Interpreting Social Experiments

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Sabetti, Filippo
Conference: Workshop on the Workshop
Location: Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: June 16-18, 1994
Date: 1994
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/4835
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Europe
Subject(s): social capital
democracy
Workshop
Abstract: "The failed expectations engendered by the experience of postcolonial regimes in Africa as in most of Latin America, the unanticipated collapse of totalitarian parties and regimes in Eastern Europe and the difficulties of consolidating self-governing institutions there, together with renewed attempts aimed at strengthening, or 'reinventing', government in established democracies in other parts of the world, have all given added importance to how we interpret social - experiments. Three major interpretative strands of political theory and policy analysis can be identified in discussions of democratic development. One strand, derived from the history of the growth of representative government, has tended to focus on social and economic conditions as essential requisites of democratic development. A second, of a more diffusionist kind, has tended to ground explanations in questions of political crafting among political actors on all sides. A third strand, with a longer intellectual lineage in the history of political inquiry, has sought modern answers to the ancient question of 'Which values and norms tend to produce good government or successful polities? Each interpretation can be used to illuminate the inadequacies of the others. The path to democratic development set by the Anglo-American experience (if it is possible to speak of a single experience) is not the only way; political crafting, and not civic culture as such, can motivate incumbents and nondemocratic actors to accept democracy. At the same time, while successful transitions to democracy can occur without social and economic preconditions and without the social capital of civic traditions, the consolidation of democratic political practices cannot depend on political crafting and elite accommodation alone, or be confined to one level, usually national."

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