Social Capital in Europe

Social Capital in Europe

A Comparative Regional Analysis

Emanuele Ferragina

The book investigates the determinants of social capital across 85 European regions capturing the renewed interest among social capital theorists for the importance of active secondary groups in supporting the correct functioning of society and its democratic institutions. Robert Putnam merged quantitative and historical analyses, suggesting that the lack of social capital in the south of Italy was mainly due to a peculiar historical development rather than being the product of a mix of structural socio-economic factors, a conclusion that has been the subject of fierce criticism and debate.

Chapter 9: Conclusion

Emanuele Ferragina

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, regional studies


Social capital is a new concept widely used in the literature to revitalize an old sociological debate: the necessity of strong secondary groups, informal ties and trust in order to guarantee the stability of society and the functioning of political institutions during the process of modernization (see Chapter 1; Ferragina 2010a). On this basis, we defined and measured social capital as a multi-dimensional concept constituted by three dimensions: informal social networks, formal social networks and social trust. The informal social networks dimension captures Tönnies’ Gemeinschaft and Durkheim’s idea of Mechanic solidarity, and it has been measured by evaluating the intensity of family and friendship ties. The formal social networks dimension captures Tönnies’ Gesellschaft and Durkheim’s idea of formal solidarity, and it has been measured by evaluating the density of membership and participation in formal associations. The social trust dimension captures the idea that the correct functioning of a modern society is based on the existence of a conducive environment, and it has been measured by evaluating the extent to which citizens trust one another, their institutions and how much they engage in the political debate (for an accurate discussion see Chapters 2 and 4). The founding fathers of sociology made a distinction between formal and informal social networks, by emphasizing that the modernization of society was generating a fast shift from the community based forms of solidarity to less bonding ties, as represented by formal associative networks.

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