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Title: Success nonetheless : making public utilities work in small-scale democracies despite social capital difficulties
Author: Douglas, Scott C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 5067
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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A large part of the study of politics is dedicated to identifying the circumstances under which democracy will flourish. Putnam made a major contribution to this field through his concept of social capital as developed in Making Democracy Work. Putnam found that communities with a high number of civic associations –i.e. social capital- had a better chance of developing an effective style of democratic government. This definition of social capital sparked much subsequent research and policy activity. It is argued here, however, that this work ignored the immediate needs of societies which do not have the required stock of social capital. There is still little guidance available on how effective government can be achieved even if the right societal circumstances are absent. This thesis hopes to find inspiration from government agencies that were successful despite their challenging social capital conditions. It specifically looks at sixteen public utilities on the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao and St. Kitts between 2005 and 2009. The thesis then systematically investigates the relationship between the performance of the agencies and the behaviour of their senior officials. It emerges that in the absence of social capital, governance is in these cases mainly hampered by a deluge of irrelevant data. Successful utilities overcame this flood by constantly upgrading the quality of information, implementing a strict yet inclusive style of governance, and allowing strong leaders the space to translate words into actions. These outcomes suggest that social capital forms an important tool for ordering information, and that, in its absence, there are still alternative strategies available to secure success nonetheless.
Supervisor: Hood, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Civil society ; Organisational behaviour ; Governance and ethics ; Democratic government ; Public administration ; Social cleavages ; social capital ; public utilities ; Caribbean ; governance ; small countries ; islands ; small-scale democracies