He has written a dozen books, translated into seventeen languages, including the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, and more recently Better Together: Restoring the American Community, a study of promising new forms of social connectedness. His previous book, Making Democracy Work, was praised by the Economist as “a great work of social science, worthy to rank alongside de Tocqueville, Pareto and Weber.” Both Making Democracy Work and Bowling Alone rank high among the most cited publications in the social sciences worldwide in the last several decades.
Putnam’s most recent book, American Grace, co-authored with David Campbell of Notre Dame, focuses on the role of religion in American public life. Based on data from two of the most comprehensive national surveys on religion and civic engagement ever conducted, American Grace is the winner of the American Political Science Association’s 2011 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs.
He consults widely with national leaders, including US Presidents Bush and Clinton, British Prime Ministers Blair and Brown, and Ireland’s Bertie Ahern. He founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal.
His earlier work included research on comparative political elites, Italian politics, and globalization. Before coming to Harvard in 1979, he taught at the University of Michigan and served on the staff of the National Security Council. He is currently working on three major empirical projects: (1) the changing role of religion in contemporary America, (2) the effects of workplace practices on family and community life, and (3) practical strategies for civic renewal in the United States in the context of immigration and social and ethnic diversity.