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 5: Social Capital in the Brain?

Michael Bang Petersen, Andreas Roepstorff and Søren Serritzlew

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


Michael Bang Petersen, Andreas Roepstorff and Søren Serritzlew Introduction The social capital concept has demonstrated its relevance. To name a few examples, it is crucial for understanding determinants of economic growth (Knack and Keefer, 1997), how democracy works (Putnam, 1993a), and more fundamentally, cooperation in collective action problems. But social capital is also a contested concept. There is no clear consensus on how to define it, some say that it is ambiguous, and some even that it should be abandoned (Arrow, 2000: 4). One of the hotly debated topics relates to the psychological basis of cooperation. Is cooperation grounded in rational calculations, directed by strong social norms or soaked in affective and emotional motivations? Such core questions directly pertain to how social capital is translated into cooperative behavior by individual minds. The alternatives presented in the debate draw on significantly different models of the human actor, and as long as answers to these questions remain unclear, so will other core concepts such as cooperation and social capital. This chapter reviews recent studies from the growing discipline of cognitive neuroscience. By offering the social sciences radically new kinds of data on psychological processes, these studies have the potential to shed new light on the psychological basis of cooperation and related questions. The message of this chapter is that the neuroscientific evidence strongly suggests that cooperative behavior is a real phenomenon motivated by the elicitation of context-sensitive emotional systems that primarily operate in situations of...

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