Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany, 1919-33
58 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2013 Last revised: 1 Nov 2015
Date Written: August 10, 2013
We collect new data on the density of associations in 229 towns and cities in interwar Germany. Towns with one standard deviation higher association density – a common proxy for social capital – saw at least 15% faster Nazi Party entry. Not only associations with a militaristic outlook (such as veteran clubs) positively predict Nazi Party entry, but also those with a clearly civic agenda (e.g., animal breeders, chess clubs, and choirs). Party membership, in turn, predicts electoral success. These results suggest that social capital aided the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s first democracy. We show that the effects of social capital depended on the political context – in federal states with more stable governments, higher association density was not correlated with faster Nazi Party entry.
Keywords: social capital, democracy, political economy, Weimar Germany, Nazi Party
JEL Classification: N44, P16, Z10
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