Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy, Emeritus at Harvard University, having retired from active teaching in May 2018. He 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, in 2013 President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities, for "deepening our understanding of community in America,” and in 2018 the International Political Science Association awarded him the Karl Deutsch Award for cross-disciplinary research. He has received sixteen honorary degrees from eight countries, including, in 2018, the University of Oxford.
Putnam has written fifteen books, translated into twenty languages, including Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Italy and Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, both among the most cited (and bestselling) social science works in the last half century. His most recent bestseller, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, chronicled the growing class gap among American youth. He is now completing a study of broad 20th century American economic, social, political, and cultural trends, tentatively entitled “The Past is Prologue: How We Americans Got Here, and How We Can Get onto a Better Path.”
Before coming to Harvard in 1979, he taught at the University of Michigan and served on the staff of the US National Security Council. At Harvard he has served as dean of the Kennedy School, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He co-founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners (including President Obama) to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal. His counsel has been sought by national and grassroots leaders on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Atlantic, including Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, Prime Ministers Blair and Cameron, and Irish Taoiseach O'Hearn. At Harvard Putnam has taught international relations, comparative politics, and American politics, including for more than two decades a small seminar “Community in America” whose alumni have gone on to distinguished careers in local and national politics, civil society, and public life.