Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics
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Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics

Edited by Barbara Hobson, Jane Lewis and Birte Siim

An important contribution to the current literature on gender and social politics, this book challenges mainstream thinking on welfare states, citizenship, family, work, and social policy. Contested Concepts in Gender and Social Politics analyses the corresponding shifts in political discourse, and the changes in socio-political configurations that mirror changing gender relations.
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Chapter 8: Social Capital – An Emerging Concept

Dietland Stolle and Jane Lewis


Dietlind Stolle with Jane Lewis INTRODUCTION Have the citizens of Western democracies lost their trust in each other? If so, what are the sources of this unfortunate development and what are the consequences? Why can citizens in some regions or villages join together and solve their collective action problems while others cannot? These questions have been prompted in large part by the growing conviction that the answers are crucial both to political stability and to economic development. In the 1990s, scholarly studies and polemical essays attempted to answer these difficult questions, drawing attention to resources that derive from society itself, namely social capital. While many dimensions of the concept of social capital are far from new, major sociological and political science contributions in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Coleman, 1988, 1990; Putnam, 1993, 2000) have provoked new research and much debate over the last decade. Scholars have been increasingly concerned with this key social resource that seems to oil the wheels of the market economy and democratic politics. The existence and maintenance of social trust and networks in communities seem to lower the amount of drug use, criminal activity, teenage pregnancies and delinquency; to increase the success of schools and their pupils; to enhance economic development; and to make government more effective (Case and Katz, 1991; Fukuyama, 1995; Granovetter, 1985; Hagan et al., 1995; Jencks and Peterson, 1991; Kawachi et al., 1997; Knack and Keefer, 1997; La Porta et al., 2000; Putnam, 1993, 2000 and others). In...

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