Handbook of Social Capital

Handbook of Social Capital

The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics

Elgar original reference

Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen

The Handbook of Social Capital offers an important contribution to the study of bonding and bridging social capital networks, balancing the ‘troika’ of sociology, political science and economics. Eminent contributors, including Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, explore the different scientific approaches required if international research is to embrace both the bright and the more shadowy aspects of social capital. The Handbook stresses the importance of trust for economies all over the world and contains a strong advocacy for cross-disciplinary work within the social sciences.

Chapter 3: Cooperation: Evidence from Experiments

Anders Poulsen

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory

Extract

1 Anders Poulsen 3.1 Introduction Most social capital researchers consider the ability of groups, regions and entire societies to cooperate as a crucial, if not defining, aspect of social capital; see, for example, Putnam (1993) and Coleman (1988). Among wellknown examples of cooperation are a group of neighbours who look after each others’ houses, thereby reducing break-ins and theft; reprimanding the local youth for transgressing, thus keeping crime low; residents removing snow from a public driveway; not littering in the local park; joining a local volunteer association that fights crime, vandalism and graffiti; a buyer and seller who each does his or her part of the deal without cheating the other side; taking part in a consumer boycott; keeping the thermostat low during a winter fuel shortage; not shirking in teams; restraining one’s resource use in common pool resource situations, such as fishing in international waters; paying taxes; not collecting illegitimate social welfare payments; voting; avoiding proliferation of nuclear weapons, and reducing greenhouse gasses.2 In all these situations, there is no central coercive authority (state, ‘police officer’, or world government) that, through the use of fines, prison sentences, taxes or subsidies, get people to cooperate. Even if one exists, it may be weak or corrupt, and so unable to effectively sanction opportunistic behaviour. Cooperation must instead be based on incentives that are locally provided, by the group members themselves. The fundamental problem is that in these situations each individual group member has an incentive to not...

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