Chapter 1: Introduction
Social capital theorists have renewed the old interest in the importance of active secondary groups in supporting well run political institutions in modern democracies (see Bourdieu and Passeron 1970; Bourdieu 1980; 1986; Putnam 1993; 2000). Putnam (1993) unified quantitative and historical analyses, arguing that the lack of social capital in the South of Italy was more the product of a peculiar historical development than the consequence of a set of contemporary socio-economic conditions. This conclusion has sparked a lengthy debate and received fierce criticism (see Ferragina 2010a). Criticism has hitherto mainly focused on the lack of awareness of the structural socio-economic conditions of society (see Skocpol 1996; Skocpol et al. 2000; Thomson 2005), as for example, the level of income inequality (Knack and Keefer 1997; Costa and Kahn 2003; O’Connel 2003), and the excessive determinism of the historical analysis (Lupo 1993; Lemann 1996; Tarrow 1996). These two criticisms are integrated by analyzing 85 European regions, revisiting Putnam’s hypothesis and contributing to the debate on the determinants of social capital. More specifically, the scope of the book is to: (1) test the impact of four socio-economic predictors (that is, income inequality, economic development, labour market participation and national divergence) on social capital through a causal model, and (2) integrate rather than simply juxtapose socio-economic and historic-institutional explanations of social capital variation with the analysis of two deviant cases.