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 4: Civil society: multifunctional centers as facilitators of the use of social capital

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 4 gave another example of civil society, namely a multifunctional meeting place and the kulturhus. Social capital is about people who meet, get to know each other and help each other in various ways. Therefore, it appears odd that discussions on meeting places and social capital are rare in the literature. This chapter therefore discussed such linkages in the Scandinavian welfare state, here termed socio-spatial planning. It raised the question: How can public meeting places facilitate the creation of bridging social capital? The chapter suggested that one possible way of securing regular, inter-group face-to-face meetings would be to establish multifunctional centers. Such buildings include: public services such as health care, schools, libraries; private enterprises such as grocers’ shops and banks; and facilities for local associations such as theatres and sports halls. Cases from the Netherlands and Denmark indicate that such large meeting places help counteract the segregation of various groups – be they ethnic, social or age. In this way, a well-functioning multifunctional center facilitates provision of the collective goods of integration, social trust and bridging social capital in the welfare state. Overall, Chapters 3 and 4 gave examples of the workings of social capital and its lubricator, trust, within the civil society.

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