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Volume 9 (2008/2009), ISSUE 14 (YEARLY)





On Putnam�s Trail: Impact of Civic Activity and Coalitions 

on Local Government in Poland









Ireneusz SADOWSKI is a member of the faculty of the Institute of Sociology, University of Białystok, Poland. He also works at the Institute for Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences where he is preparing his doctoral dissertation. His research interests include civil society, social capital, social inequality and sociological research methodology.




Community development - Urban policies - Coalition- Institutional efficiency - Civic activity - Social capital




This article presents results of a study on local self-government in one of the Polish regions. It�s main aim was to describe mechanisms of social environment�s impact on democratic institutions, with Putnam�s theory as a theoretical background. It was already noted that the mentioned influence is mediated by the structure of politics (i.e. decision-making) what implies that the social capital effect on local institutions� performance can be described in terms of network structure of local elites. Methodology of the study combined various sources of information: official data, mail survey addressed to authorities and series of in-depth interviews, therefore patterns were described both at macro- and micro-level (case studies). 


In the short-term perspective it has been observed, that even in community lacking interpersonal trust and cooperation local institutions can thrive, when they are run by the group of influential actors operating on the basis of �coalition� (term in it�s network sense borrowed from studies of semi-formal trade institutions). Those efficiently working network configurations (certain forms of local elite) seem to be the key in maintaining high performance of local democratic institutions. They can be described as loose groups which operate on the basis of their own, �exclusive� social capital (personal ties, common goals, active cooperation etc.). Nevertheless � statistical analysis showed that in the long-term perspective social characteristics of community begin to count. It is probably because they work as a main arguments for the function of probability of such network structure�s emergence. It should be assumed that if members of community are oriented at active participation and cooperation, those coalitions form easier and in greater numbers. This conclusion contradicts common views on institutional performance which associate efficiency mainly with pure chance or exogenous factors.




This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the Third International Conference of The Social Capital Foundation, Buggiba, Republic of Malta, 21-22 September 2008. 




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