The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics
Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen
Chapter 23: The Sociability of Nations: International Comparisons in Bonding, Bridging and Linking Social Capital
Roger Patulny Introduction It seems obvious to suggest that a sociable nation would be a good place to live. But how do we identify which nations are sociable and which are not? Anecdotal evidence is powerful but contradictory. We might embrace the idea that the family and the local neighbourhood make up the backbone of a nation, and point to countries such as Italy and Spain as examples of sociable nations. We can picture rustic images of multiple generations of grandparents, parents and children playing and dining together in village squares, with open and obvious displays of mutual warmth and aﬀection. This can be contrasted against visions of more restrained, isolated and atomized individuals populating the countries of central and northern Europe to complete a stereotype of socially ‘warm’ Mediterranean and ‘cold’ northern European countries. However, if we take a broader picture of civil society as the key to a nation’s sociability, the opposite picture emerges. The integrated and homogenous societies of northern Europe are archetypes of peaceful, safe and healthy societies, and oﬀer stereotypes of people calmly riding bikes, obeying road rules and volunteering in broad-based civic associations that stretch beyond the boundaries of family and village. Contrast this against the chaos of traﬃc in Mediterranean Europe, the pattern of declining volunteering identiﬁed in the US (Putnam, 2000), and the destructive but family-based Maﬁa of Italy. The ‘warm’ south of Europe can seem anarchic and tribal, and the ‘cold’ north peaceful and prosperous. Another...
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