Trust, Social Capital and the Scandinavian Welfare State

Trust, Social Capital and the Scandinavian Welfare State

Explaining the Flight of the Bumblebee

Gunnar L.H. Svendsen and Gert T. Svendsen

Denmark exemplifies the puzzle of socio-economic success in Scandinavia. Populations are thriving despite the world’s highest levels of tax and generous social benefits. Denmark would appear to be a land of paradise for free-riders and those who want ‘money for nothing’. However, the national personality is characterized both by cooperation in everyday life and the numerous ‘hard-riders’ who make extraordinary contributions. Applying Bourdieuconomics, the authors focus on contemporary case studies to explain how social capital and trust are used to counteract free-riding and enable the flight of the Scandinavian welfare state ‘bumblebee’.

Chapter 3: Civil society: the use of social capital in two local communities

Gunnar L.H. Svendsen and Gert T. Svendsen

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, sociology and sociological theory, welfare states


Chapter 3 then introduced civil society and looked at two local communities, namely Klitmøller and Karby. By the use of statistical, historical and fieldwork data from these two peripheral rural communities in Denmark, it was demonstrated how intangible capital in the form of social, organizational and cultural capital was used in situ, at the micro level. We suggested that the difference in economic performance between these two very similar communities – both high-trust communities – should be explained in their varying ability to capitalize upon local stocks of prevailingly intangible capital. Klitmøller manages well, as mirrored in population increase, which could be explained by numerous hard-riders and volunteers, an open inclusive culture and effective organizational capital. Karby suffers from a steady population decline and is managing less well, something we explained as a result of fewer hard-riders (only three or four “draught animals”) to secure positive local development, as well as less openness towards the surrounding world. Overall, meeting places were found to be crucial for specific and social trust to lubricate bridging social capital. And indeed there were many more “public” meeting places for all in Klitmøller, while “private” meeting places prevailed in Karby.

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