Jan 14, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Calabria is still low on social capital

One of the commenters from my previous post on riots in Italy observed that “Calabria is low on social capital.” Rachel Donadio’s follow-up story on the riots tends to confirm this hypothesis:

The economy is so weak here [Rosarno, Calabria] that locals and immigrants are competitors. In a town where people are reluctant to reveal their last names and often their first, a mysterious element complicates any full understanding of the riots…

Edward Banfield’s Moral Basis of a Backward Economy is one of the most explicit analyses of what living in a society without trust looks like. Banfield was examining Sicily in the 1950s. Calabria is very close to Sicily, so his analysis tends to hold there as well. The part of the book that I remember most vividly was Banfield’s discussion of how people would often stop talking to their neighbors if they moved houses. His explanation was that people would talk to their neighbors to help keep peace between them. When one of them moved away, the exigency ceased to exist, thus they stopped talking. Donadio’s article echoed Banfield. What’s sad is that Banfield was writing half a century ago.


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Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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