Sociability and its Discontents: Civil Society, Social Capital, and their Alternatives in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe
This volume advances our knowledge of continuing trends over the longue durée of European history. It also exposes many differences separating contemporaries from their medieval and early modern ancestors. In putting the concept of social capital to the test, the authors also expose the strengths, weaknesses, and limits of the ‘Putnam thesis’. The essays address fourteenth-century English fears of old-age neglect; childhood, friendship, scandal, and rivalry in Renaissance Florence; rebellion in an Italian village; social capital and seigneurial power in southern and north-central Italy; guild violence in Calvinist Ghent; civil society in early-modern Bologna, Naples and the Papal State; gender in High Renaissance Rome; and critical analyses of the transition from religious to secular sensibilities that scholars (following Jürgen Habermas) have identified in eighteenth-century Europe. In each case, the topic is considered in relation to recent theories of ‘social capital’: the informal, intangible bonds of trust upon which, social scientist Robert Putnam argues, every human community depends. The result is a series of highly original case-studies which reveal the workings of late medieval and early modern European society from new and often unexpected angles.