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Making Democracy Work Better: Mediating Structures, Social Capital, and the Democratic Prospect Paperback – October 11, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (October 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807848247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807848241
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

This is a wonderful book about democracy, economics and community in the real world. James A. Morone, Brown University

Review

This is a wonderful book about democracy, economics and community in the real world. Richard Couto has a fine eye for political theory and a fine ear for the poems, songs, chants and voices of people struggling to improve their lives.--James A. Morone, Brown University|Offers an excellent review of the social capital literature. . . . Because the research design of this project can be adapted to many other studies focused on social capital, the book will be especially useful for social scientists and management specialists in various disciplines interested in social capital research.--Choice|In a rich study that combines sophisticated political theory with well-grounded research, Richard Couto examines the potential contributions voluntary organizations make to the 'democratic prospect' of enhancing community and equality in American public life. Specifically, he examines the mediating role a wide range of community-based organizations and coalitions in Appalachia play between the public and private sectors in order to understand how grassroots groups best mitigate and challenge the failure of economies and governments to provide for basic human needs, especially in rural communities and regions of poverty, disinvestment, and deindustrialization.--Dwight B. Billings, University of Kentucky

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert O. Bothwell on July 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book furthers the general understanding of social capital, civil society, democracy, nonprofit organizations, voluntary action and, to a limited extent, philanthropy.
A primary contribution of this book is a resurrection and development of a different conception of social capital than what Robert Putnam has articulated. Couto elaborates on Robert A. Nisbet's 1962 conception of social capital as including a material base as well as the moral or value base about which Putnam writes.
According to Couto, "Nisbet relates the failure of intermediate associations (family, community, church, and the whole network of informal interpersonal relationships) to provide the psychological and symbolic functions of social capital -- that is, its moral element -- directly to their diminished capacity to perform the material and economic functions of social capital" (identified as "mutual aid, welfare, education, recreation, and economic production and distribution") (p.53).
Borrowing also on Julian Wolpert, Couto says, "People have different amounts of social capital depending on the actual or potential resources, the size of the network to which they are linked, and the amount of economic and cultural capital the members of that network have." And citing Pierre Bourdieu, Couto adds, "Social capital is never independent of the other forms of capital..." (p.62).
The book then proceeds to narrate the stories of 23 community-based "mediating structures" in Appalachia and discuss how they contribute to social capital, civil society and democracy from a regional economic base that is among the poorest in the country.
At first blush, this seems to contradict the theory above.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "radioactive_lemming" on January 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
As the title indicates, this work builds upon (but independant from) Robert Putnum's "Making Democracy Work." In a book both approprate for univeristy level study and laymen alike, Couto presents the subject in three parts. First, Couto provides a well versed lesson in the civic sphere and mediating structures. The middle provides a virtual overkill of sucessfull mediating structures as examples. These examples help the reader understand that the civic sphere isn't some intangable ideal discussed by high-minded professor types, but rather a vital active (and very real) aspect of democracy. The examples lead the reader into the third part where Couto argues that a true and healthy democracy can only be achieved through citizen participation.
Couto focuses upon the central and southern Applachian regions in this work. He shows that if these people historically oppressed by industrial greed, political corruptness and belittling cultural sterotypes can stand up to the tide of Corporate globalism and demand demorcatic justice, then everybody can also. Couto doesn't break new ground, but rather expands upon this very important subject. These are issues addressed by Tocqueville and expanded upon by many great minds since then. Couto has futhered the intellectual pursuit of this concept.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Gresham on May 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Dr. Couto says, "Mediating structures are a prerequisite to democracy. They preserve the liberty of citizens to act on public matters apart form government. They permit their members representation and participation in the sociopolitical arrangements of the neighborhood, community. nation, or state....The test for the democratic nature of mediating structures involves the stringent test of all three elements--liberty, equality, and political action--not only one of the three." With examples drawn from the Appalachia region, community social capital, in his view, are often adequate to meet local decision-making and problem-solving needs, but must be supplemented by outside resources to ensure adequate long-term solutions.
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Making Democracy Work Better: Mediating Structures, Social Capital, and the Democratic Prospect
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