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Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Professor Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006, Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world's highest accolade for a political scientist, and in 2012, he received the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. Raised in a small town in the Midwest and educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale, he has served as Dean of the Kennedy School of Government. The London Sunday Times has called him “the most influential academic in the world today.”
He has written fourteen books, translated into twenty 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 are among the most cited publications in the social sciences worldwide in the last half century.
He consults widely with national leaders, including the last three American presidents, the last three British prime ministers, and the last French president. He co-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.
Putnam's 2010 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.
Since 2010, he has been focused on one major empirical project: Inequality and opportunity: the growing class gap among American young people and the implications for social mobility. His book on this subject, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis was published in March 2015.