The Theory That Won't Die: From Mass Society to the Decline of Social Capital

  title={The Theory That Won't Die: From Mass Society to the Decline of Social Capital},
  author={Irene Taviss Thomson},
  journal={Sociological Forum},
  • I. Thomson
  • Published 2005
  • Economics
  • Sociological Forum
Though it lacks adequate empirical support, the hypothesis of declining social attachments as a source of American social problems persists. Both mass society theory in the mid-twentieth century and the theory of declining social capital in the late-twentieth century have had broad appeal. This paper demonstrates the continuities in argument and assumptions between these two theories as well as the modifications of the theory in the face of cultural change. It suggests that some of the… Expand
Social Capital and Equality: Tocqueville’s Legacy
Social capital theory has become increasingly important in the social science literature, integrating approaches previously based only on the classical forms of capital. In this article, theExpand
Social Capital and Equality: Tocqueville's Legacy: Rethinking social capital in relation with income inequalities
The purpose of this paper is to reflect theoretically upon the development of the social capital concept and its relation with income inequalities, in order to clarify the dangers of an 'overlyExpand
From Class Struggle to General Middle-Class Society to Divided Society: Societal Models of Inequality in Postwar Japan
After the fierce class struggles in the first postwar years, a societal model describing Japan as a general middle-class society with outstanding equality in opportunities and outcome becameExpand
Mediating Structures: Their Organization in Civil Society
Abstract This paper explores a counter-weight to anti-democratic trends suggested by civil society theory: mediating structures (also known as ‘intermediate’ or ‘intermediary’ organizations). We lookExpand
The never-ending debate about The moral basis of a backward society: Banfield and ‘amoral familism’
This article analyses Edward Banfield's book, The moral basis of a backward society. According to this American scholar, prioritizing present orientation over future planning is the distinctiveExpand
Cooperation, Coordination, and Control: The Emergence and Decline of Centralized Finance in American Charity
The notion that government funding undermines the independence of nonprofit organizations is a prevalent theme in scholarship on state–nonprofit relations, social welfare policy, and the condition ofExpand
The socio-economic determinants of social capital and the mediating effect of history: Making Democracy Work revisited
Putnam argued that the different levels of social capital between the North and the South of Italy originated in the Middle Ages. In the North of Italy, the existence of a dense network of medievalExpand
Culture Wars and Enduring American Dilemmas
Research showing America's politics may be more based on personal choice than party or cultural divisions. The idea of a culture war, or wars, has been around in America since the 1960s: at itsExpand
Ortega y Gasset, Democracy, and the Rule of the People
Abstract Scholars of José Ortega y Gasset often read him as a straightforwardly democratic figure. However, many of these readings adopt Ortega’s own terminology and assumptions and so neglect toExpand
The Return of the American Voter? Party Polarization and Voting Behavior, 1988 to 2004
A frequent concern voiced by social commentators has been the persistence of mass disengagement over the past two decades—despite evidence of improving democratic involvement. In particular, sinceExpand


Understanding the American Decline in Social Capital, 1952-1998
Social capital describes both the relations across and within families. Loury(1977) emphasized the importance of social capital within the home for the de-velopment of children. These relationsExpand
▪ Abstract This review evaluates the most recent studies of social capital in political science and argues that they have strayed considerably from the original treatment of social capital, whichExpand
Producing Social Capital
This article analyzes the conceptual treatment of national social movement organizations (SMOs) in current debates over civil society and the decline of social capital in the United States. DespiteExpand
Editors' Introduction
This article sets the stage for the discussion of social capital, civil society, and contemporary democracy by attempting to clarify terms and set out the most promising avenues for discussion andExpand
The Social Cohesion of Liberal Democracy
This paper analyzes the empiricat utility of cossensual and conNictual theories in explaining the social cohesion of the liberal democracies of Britasn and the United States. After clarifyingExpand
Social Capital and Democracy
Social capital is in danger of going the way of political culture—a potentially powerful concept that is given many different meanings by many different people for many different purposes. ThisExpand
Social Trust and Value Change: The Decline of Social Capital in American Youth, 1976-1995
Given the importance that generalized social trust plays in various theories of American society, recent evidence of its low levels among younger people portends ominous changes in American civicExpand
Mass Society and Political Movements: A New Formulation
  • M. Pinard
  • Sociology
  • American Journal of Sociology
  • 1968
The theory of mass society is criticized for its consideration of the sole restraining effects of primary and secondary groupings and for its failure to recognize that these groupings can also remainExpand
The Two Meanings of Social Capital
The popularity of the concept of social capital has been accompanied by increasing controversy about its actual meaning and effects. I consider here the alternative applications of the concept as anExpand
Review Article: Social Capital as a Concept in the Social Sciences: The Current State of the Debate
The last decade has seen an explosion of literature on, or employing the concept of, social capital in a wide range of academic disciplines, including politics, social policy, economics andExpand