Civil Society, Social Capital and Voluntary Association
Civil Society, Social Capital
and Voluntary Association

Political Science 199C-27, Spring 2003, January 8 - May 2
Monday and Wednesday 3:55 - 5:10PM
Social Sciences 225

[Link to Course Calendar]

Neil Carlson, Instructor
Home Office Phone: 919 382-0035 (8am-10pm only, please!)
Office: Perkins 02CS
(End of basement hallway)
Office Hours: TBA with class input

Course Description and Goals
This course is a special topics investigation on the basis of democratic politics in everyday cultural and organizational practices. This course will seek to:

  • refine concepts and causal models of politics and advance students' familiarity with the vocabulary and methods of political science;
  • review important literature in political theory and social science on the topics of civil society, social capital, and voluntary association, beginning with classical political theorists;
  • provide students with the ability to understand and interpret basic statistical models and other common quantitative approaches to political science, with an emphasis on concepts and analytical thinking and very little actual use of mathematics;
  • develop a broad, even-handed understanding of issues and controversies, preparing students to stake out their own beliefs while fully understanding and appreciating the merits of opposing views;
  • expose students to the practical process of organizing a major group project, while fairly evaluating individual effort and achievement.

Goals for students:

  • Learn to apply political science theories, concepts and methods in a specific research context;
  • Develop a broad understanding of the field of "civic culture" research and strong specific knowledge of selected authors and ideas;
  • Understand and articulate the implications of the course materials for personal and group political activism and public policy.
  • Acquire and improve academic writing and project collaboration skills.

Classroom Tone
The instructor is committed to helping students enjoy the class, the materials, and the learning process. To that end, students must provide ongoing feedback on the class to the instructor and each other. A successful experience will depend greatly on students taking the initiative to propose new topics, contribute information and design rules and norms for class collaboration. Students are expected to be respectful of each other in the classroom and online as we model the real-and-ideal civil society we are studying.

The texts are all available in the Duke Textbook store; they are also in the Duke Libraries and online. Links are provided to each book's price list at and entries at and Barnes and Noble:

Book Citation Amazon BN
Putnam, Robert D., with Robert Leonardi and Raffaella Y. Nanetti. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993. (approx. $21 new retail)
Rosenblum, Nancy L. and Robert C. Post, eds. Civil Society and Government. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002. (approx. $20 new retail)
Skocpol, Theda and Morris P. Fiorina, eds. Civic Engagement in American Democracy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press / Russell Sage Foundation, 1999. (approx. $20 new retail)

CourseInfo Web Site
Frequent use of the CourseInfo website is absolutely necessary. The site is located at:

Or log in to and search for POLSCI199C section 27. All class business will be conducted through the CourseInfo site. Students must check the site on a regular basis; urgent notices will be sent by e-mail, however. If you have not used CourseInfo before, you should meet with the instructor immediately for a quick tutorial.

Course Calendar
The calendar is posted and is included here by reference. The calendar includes (or will include) links to all required and supplemental reading materials. It may be revised at any time along with notice to all enrolled students. Students may also participate in making consensual changes to the calendar.

Grading will be as follows (subject to some changes given class input during the first two weeks), for a total possible of 1,000 points; see below for detailed descriptions of assignments:

Percent Grading Category   Total Points
15% Class participation, including four 20-point quizzes (a dean's excuse is required for make-up quizzes), one class period as discussion moderator (20 points), and regular involvement in class discussion (50 points).   150
15% Regular contributions to the online CourseInfo discussion group. (10 weeks @ 15 points each)   150
30% Two solo review and analysis papers reviewing books or major articles relevant to your class project group and committee assignments (10% each; two student reviewers for each paper award up to five points each)   300
40% Class project (20% for individual-level contributions, 10% each for group-, and class-level contributions); see project guidelines below.   400
? Small extra credit opportunities TBA (no more than 30 points or 3% possible)   ?
100% TOTAL POINTS   1,000

The proposed grading scale is as follows; don't let the numbers intimidate you, A's and A+'s are very achievable with a consistent effort and a little creativity.

Grade Minimum %   Grade Minimum %
A+ 98%   C+ 75%
A 95%   C 71%
A- 91%   C- 67%
B+ 87%   D+ 63%
B 83%   D 59%
B- 79%   D- 55%
      F <55%


Assignments & Examinations

Course Readings and Participation: Readings on the course calendar marked with an asterisk (*) are required; you will need to read this material with attention to participate in the class. No one is expected to be completely informed at all times, but the semester's pattern should be positive for each student to receive a high score. Two to four quizzes will be announced and given on previous readings and lectures; if course participation is lackluster, some quizzes may be unannounced instead. Each students will also moderate a class discussion at least once during the semester.

Any readings or web sites marked with a hyphen (-) are supplemental. Unless you already have a copy, please print and at least skim each supplemental reading before class and bring it to class; the instructor may refer to these materials in class and you can use the printed copies to take valuable notes.

Weekly "Reviews and Replies" Discussion Board posts: Each student should contribute a minimum of three "posts" or messages to the Reviews and Replies forum. Each week's posts are worth 15 points and must be completed on time to receive credit. The posts are assigned as follows:

  • By Wednesday at 10pm: One major post (worth up to 9 points) reviewing and critiquing a course reading, lecture or research project topic. Major posts should be about 2-4 paragraphs (150-300 words, roughly) in length, written in clear, correct academic style. Sources must be credited, but credits may be informally formatted.
  • By Friday at 5pm: Two minor posts (worth up to 3 points each) responding thoughtfully and informatively to another class member's post; also written in academic style.
  • All posts MUST be correctly organized in a single weekly discussion "thread" to receive credit for that week. If a thread for the new week does not yet exist, you must create one and put your major post in it. We will cover how to do this in class.

This assignment is intended to pursue several goals: 1) to work on writing skills without too many longer assignments; 2) to practice the new technology of online discussions in a literate and civil fashion; 3) to encourage reading and discussion of course materials. In this light, forum posts should be well-written, polite and thoughtful. Humor and banter are welcome, but be careful to keep the Reviews and Replies Forum focused on class topics. The instructor will give each student extended comments on writing form and substance at least twice during the semester.

Two Solo Papers: Two five- to eight-page solo papers are required. Due dates are Monday, February 24 and Monday, March 31. Topics will be discussed and assigned well in advance.

Class Project: The class project will provide students with experience in the kind of practical "micropolitics" we are discussing. Students must organize and execute a collective effort from beginning to end. The project is absolutely due by 7pm on Friday, May 3 (the time of the course's final exam period), but should easily be finished and submitted sooner so students who are finished with exams can leave town as needed. The instructor will guide and approve the project, but the choice of topic and the division of labor should be generally at the students' initiative. The edited volumes used as texts in the class may serve as models for the students' approach.

ORGANIZATION: Students will organize in project groups. A variety of written, audio and visual components can be used, but each student must contribute an individual section involving a substantial amount of content and effort; the instructor will indicate how much is enough as the eventual format is defined. Project sections may consist partly of revised material submitted in the two solo papers and the "Reviews & Replies" discussion groups. Each group must work to improve and integrate the individual sections and provide a group section that clarifies and analyzes the integrated topic. Project leadership must integrate and improve the group sections into an overview. The project will be drafted with enough time to allow each student to review it and suggest improvements. The instructor will provide assistance in organizing the process of reviewing and improving the project and will regularly indicate areas that need improvement for better grades.

TOPICS: Here are some broad areas of investigation the project could pursue; the eventual topic chosen will be more specific and concrete:

  1. Applying competing definitions and theories of civil society to a single particular area of political inquiry, such as civil rights, religious groups, government reform, welfare systems, press and media, technological development, etc.
  2. Developing a new theory or approach to civil society and articulating it with reference to each of the several areas of inquiry mentioned above.
  3. Discuss various existing models of institutional designs for state-society relations and propose alternatives; evaluate specific cases of legislation or constitutions.
  4. Critique and compare research methods used by scholars studying social capital, and propose improvements. 

Expected Class Workload
Here is an idea of how you can manage this workload for a typical week:

  • Come to class: 90 minutes twice a week, including travel time (3 hours maximum).
  • Read assigned texts: 3 hours maximum (if you are taking longer, talk to the instructor about learning to skim productively).
  • Read forums, then post a message or two on the online forum : 1 hour maximum.
  • Work on assigned papers or project assignments: 2-3 hours weekly average.

If you work at the class steadily, this adds up to 9-10 hours weekly maximum, including class time, leaving time for recreation and/or employment even with a full course load. Falling behind will obviously begin to hurt in a hurry, however. If you find that you regularly need more time to fulfill the course requirements, please talk with the instructor immediately.

Writing Focus
This class will focus on writing well; while your grades will not depend heavily on your initial writing ability, you must demonstrate effort and improvement in response to critique as the course proceeds. The instructor will provide detailed editorial comments on each paper. Grammatical errors, stylistic problems and logical faults addressed in these comments should improve noticeably if you want to receive a good grade for the course. You are encouraged to take advantage of the services the campus Writing Studio offers. It is best to schedule an appointment early in the writing process. To do so, use the on-line appointment calendar.

For help with citation formats, see the Duke Libraries Citation Guide. Students may use any consistent format, although the preferred format for political science follows the APSR format, which resembles the APA In-Text Parenthetical Citation style documented on the Duke page linked above.

Dean's Excuses
Official excuses can be obtained from the dean's office of your school. They are available only for missed written assignments and examinations, and only due to illness, representing the university (e.g. athletic competition), or for a death in the family. A list of deans is available at under the "Deans and Directors" link; for most, your dean is in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Psychological Services
If at any time you feel your state of mind is interfering with your class performance, please speak with the instructor. If you would prefer to speak with someone else, contact Duke Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 660-1000 or in 214 Page (next to the Duke Chapel).

Students with disabilities that may require extended exam times or other accommodations should contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at (919) 684-5917 or e-mail director Emma Swain at The instructor cannot alter the course requirements for any disability without certification from this office.

Last updated by Neil Carlson, Thursday, January 2, 2003 5:20 PM