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Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University
Robert D. Putnam has written some of the most-cited publications in the social sciences in the last half century and was called “the most influential academic in the world today” by the Sunday Times of London. Educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale, he is the author of more than a dozen books including Bowling Alone and Making Democracy Work, and he recently cowrote American Grace, an award-winning book on the role of religion in public life in America. He is a past president of the American Political Science Association, has advised world leaders, and received the 2006 Skytte Prize, one of the highest honors for political scientists.
Robert D. Putnam. Political scientist. Sociologist. Award-winning author of books that define the American condition. From your first book, The Beliefs of Politicians, to your latest, American Grace, your scholarship has examined the ambitious and fundamental questions of political theory and answered them using the latest techniques of empirical social science research. In Making Democracy Work, you asked one of the most compelling, and most difficult, questions political science can address: “Why do some democratic governments succeed and others fail?” Through an ingenious analysis of the performance of regional governments in Italy, you demonstrated that “the key to making democracy work” is “social capital,” which you define as “social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.” Your demonstration of the power of social capital to promote successful democratic government defined the research agenda for a generation of political scientists, and it led you to look for a way to measure the state of social capital in America. In your best-selling book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community you documented a frightening decline in the health of America’s civic culture, epitomized by the decline of bowling leagues where strangers and neighbors become friends and fellow citizens. You are a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society; you hold honorary degrees from universities around the world; and you have received extraordinary recognition in your field, including the highly prestigious Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science. Colby is proud to honor you today.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Robert D. Putnam, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.