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 15: The Environment

Kim Mannemar Sønderskov

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


Kim Mannemar Sønderskov Introduction Social capital helps solve collective action problems. In the presence of social capital, groups of actors are able to cooperate and provide collective goods not provided in other groups. That is the main message from the growing literature on social capital (Coleman, 1990: ch. 12; Putnam, 1993: ch. 6, 2000: ch. 16; Uslaner, 1999; Paldam and Svendsen, 2000; Ostrom and Ahn, 2003; Rothstein, 2005: ch. 1; Nannestad, this volume). Collective action problems arise in association with provision of nonexcludable goods – that is, goods nobody can be excluded from enjoying (Musgrave, 1959). Every potential contributor to a non-excludable good thus faces the dilemma: should I contribute even though I can enjoy the good without doing so? Most of us face such dilemmas in many aspects of life: should I pay a higher price for fair trade products such as TransFair or Max Havelaar? Should I occasionally give up my right of way to help the traffic flow more smoothly? Should I vote? Sign petitions? Demonstrate? And so on. Collective action dilemmas crop up in many aspects of life and are relevant to all the social sciences. In political science, collective action dilemmas have been proclaimed the central issue (Ostrom, 1998). Given the expected beneficial effect of social capital on collective action problems, the popularity of the concept is not surprising. There are also collective action dilemmas in relation to the natural environment. Pollution abatement and a sound environment are paradigm cases of a...

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