Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 25-45

First online:

Reconsidering the Effects of Bonding Social Capital: A Closer Look at Black Civil Society Institutions in America

  • Brian D. Mc KenzieAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Texas A&M University Email author 

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Few studies consider how Putnam’s bridging and bonding social capital arguments apply to voluntary associations within American minority group communities. Consequently, I examine African-American civic groups to explore Putnam’s claims about the potential negative political effects of bonding social capital. In contrast to the bonding social capital thesis, I argue that black communal associations encourage African-Americans to be involved in a variety of mainstream civic and political activities that reach beyond their own group interests. Using the 1993–1994 National Black Politics Study I demonstrate that although black organizations are predominantly composed of African-Americans and work to advance their interests, these goals are not pursued at the expense of connecting blacks to others in the general polity.


Bonding social capital Civil society Black political behavior