Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Robert Putnam Gives Two Thumbs Up for the New Costa/Kahn Social Capital Book

Are you an academic who needs some praise for your work? Or are you well aware that your work kicks ass and you don't need any applause? Permit me to reveal my type. I'm an insecure guy who needs a pat on the back. That's why I went to the University of Chicago for graduate school. The coddling and hand holding offered there was always reassuring. The friendly faculty and students offered great emotional comfort. I am kidding but I am tickled by the the endorsements below for my new book with my favorite co-author. Robert Putnam speaks the truth!

Official Princeton University Press Page for Costa and Kahn's Heroes and Cowards

When are people willing to sacrifice for the common good? What are the benefits of friendship? How do communities deal with betrayal? And what are the costs and benefits of being in a diverse community? Using the life histories of more than forty thousand Civil War soldiers, Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn answer these questions and uncover the vivid stories, social influences, and crucial networks that influenced soldiers' lives both during and after the war.

Drawing information from government documents, soldiers' journals, and one of the most extensive research projects about Union Army soldiers ever undertaken, Heroes and Cowards demonstrates the role that social capital plays in people's decisions. The makeup of various companies--whether soldiers were of the same ethnicity, age, and occupation--influenced whether soldiers remained loyal or whether they deserted. Costa and Kahn discuss how the soldiers benefited from friendships, what social factors allowed some to survive the POW camps while others died, and how punishments meted out for breaking codes of conduct affected men after the war. The book also examines the experience of African-American soldiers and makes important observations about how their comrades shaped their lives.

Heroes and Cowards highlights the inherent tensions between the costs and benefits of community diversity, shedding light on how groups and societies behave and providing valuable lessons for the present day.

Dora L. Costa is the author of The Evolution of Retirement: An American Economic History, 1880-1990. She teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles. Matthew E. Kahn is the author of Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment. He also teaches at UCLA. Costa and Kahn are research associates at the National Bureau of Economic Research.


"This remarkable book is destined to become a classic in social science. It addresses issues of supreme importance and timeliness--loyalty, betrayal, heroism, cowardice, survival, the challenges of diversity, and the benefits of social bonds. It rests on rigorous statistical analysis of an extraordinary historical archive, and yet it is so readable as to be unputdownable. It deals with a single epochal event in one nation's history--the U.S. Civil War--and yet its lessons are highly relevant in many other eras and societies, including our own."--Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

"With its excellent blending of qualitative and quantitative data, this is a significant contribution to Civil War history and, more generally, to military history. It will be of great interest to economists, historians and general readers, especially the large number still fascinated by the Civil War."--Stanley L. Engerman, coauthor of Time on the Cross

"Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn are two accomplished scholars whose work offers substantially new insights, on why men desert and how this affects them; on the experience of black soldiers during and after the war; and on the migration patterns of war veterans. The research behind this book is based on data that has not previously been used by scholars, and their use of that data is imaginative and revealing. Heroes and Cowards is a significant contribution to our knowledge of how Civil War veterans coped with the stresses of war and their lives after 1865."--Roger Ransom, author of The Confederate States of America: What Might Have Been

"Heroes and Cowards is a remarkable and impressive piece of economic history, a unique book that will interest a large readership."--Louis P. Cain, Loyola University Chicago