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 11: The State

Francisco Herreros

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


Francisco Herreros Introduction Does the state promote social trust? The literature on social capital does not always agree on this point. The now classical study about social capital, Putnam’s Making Democracy Work (1993) totally disregarded a possible role of the state in the creation of interpersonal trust, focusing instead on a thesis of path dependence to explain the differences in the levels of social capital between the central and Northern Italian regions as compared with the South, arguing that those differences could be traced back to an initial gap in social capital between both territories in the period of the Italian city-republics of the eleventh to fifteenth centuries. In his posterior notorious work, Bowling Alone (Putnam, 2000), the state was hardly acquitted from the charge of destroying America’s social capital. There are numerous examples in the literature on social capital of how social capital can be destroyed by conscious actions of the state, as the actions of the Spanish viceroys in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Southern Italy (Padgen, 1988), the Italian state after the Risorgimento (Huysseune, 2003), or the communist regimes in Eastern Europe (Nichols, 1996: 634–8; Mondak and Gearing, 1998; Dowley and Silver, 2003; Flap and Völker, 2003; Iglic, 2003; Uslaner, 2003). Not everything is bad news for the role of the state on social capital, though. A number of authors have claimed that the state can indeed be a positive factor in the development of social capital, at least measured as interpersonal...

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