Saturday, July 13, 2013

Social Capital?: Nazism, Bismarck's Unintended Monster and Bowling for Fascism. Or, The Soprano Effect.

This kind of article is not so much about the triumph of economics' (and other social sciences in its wake) ways of thinking, as about the strong push to explanation, working carefully and critically with data sets, and in effect an light-theory endeavor. In other words, economics-type training has externalities, much as does physics training.

Studying politics might get you a doctorate in Germany, and you go into politics, but then your thesis is discovered to be plagiarized. But studying physics and physical chemistry, you go into politics, and you are Angela Merkel.

Nazism depended on the solidarity of the German people (vs. the principalities)--Bismarck's legacy (the Prussian triumph, although he would have been horrified  by what happened).

Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany, 1919-33

Shanker Satyanath 

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Nico Voigtländer 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Hans-Joachim Voth 

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREI); Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

June 25, 2013

Social capital – a dense network of associations facilitating cooperation within a community – typically leads to positive political and economic outcomes, as demonstrated by a large literature following Putnam. A growing literature emphasizes the potentially “dark side” of social capital. This paper examines the role of social capital in the downfall of democracy in interwar Germany by analyzing Nazi party entry rates in a cross-section of towns and cities. Before the Nazi Party’s triumphs at the ballot box, it built an extensive organizational structure, becoming a mass movement with nearly a million members by early 1933. We show that dense networks of civic associations such as bowling clubs, animal breeder associations, or choirs facilitated the rise of the Nazi Party. The effects are large: Towns with one standard deviation higher association density saw at least one-third faster growth in the strength of the Nazi Party. IV results based on 19th century measures of social capital reinforce our conclusions. In addition, all types of associations – veteran associations and non-military clubs, “bridging” and “bonding” associations – positively predict NS party entry. These results suggest that social capital in Weimar Germany aided the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s first democracy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: social capital, democracy, political economy, Weimar Germany, Nazi Party