Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany: 1919-33

58 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2013

See all articles by Shanker Satyanath

Shanker Satyanath

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Nico Voigtländer

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Hans-Joachim Voth

University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 2013

Abstract

Social capital – a dense network of associations facilitating cooperation within a community – typically leads to positive political and economic outcomes, as demonstrated by a large literature following Putnam. A growing literature emphasizes the potentially “dark side” of social capital. This paper examines the role of social capital in the downfall of democracy in interwar Germany by analyzing Nazi party entry rates in a cross-section of towns and cities. Before the Nazi Party’s triumphs at the ballot box, it built an extensive organizational structure, becoming a mass movement with nearly a million members by early 1933. We show that dense networks of civic associations such as bowling clubs, animal breeder associations, or choirs facilitated the rise of the Nazi Party. The effects are large: Towns with one standard deviation higher association density saw at least one-third faster growth in the strength of the Nazi Party. IV results based on 19th century measures of social capital reinforce our conclusions. In addition, all types of associations – veteran associations and non-military clubs, “bridging” and “bonding” associations – positively predict NS party entry. These results suggest that social capital in Weimar Germany aided the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s first democracy.

Keywords: democracy, extremism, social capital

JEL Classification: N44, P16

Suggested Citation

Satyanath, Shanker and Voigtländer, Nico and Voth, Hans-Joachim, Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany: 1919-33 (August 2013). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9595. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2309239

Shanker Satyanath (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

715 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States

Nico Voigtländer

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States
+1-310-794 6382 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/nico.v/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Hans-Joachim Voth

University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society ( email )

Raemistrasse 71
Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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