Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma
Chapter 25: Social capital: a critique and extension
The concept of social capital has been widely used in the economic literature to assess issues on economic development (Isham et al., 2002; Grootaert and Van Bastelaer, 2002), health promotion (Hawe and Shiell, 2000; Almedom, 2005), or sustainable environmental governance (Pretty and Ward, 2001). Economists generally use ‘social capital’ to address a wide range of social phenomena that are believed to have an economic payoff. The hybrid nature of this concept raises interest, especially in social economics where the term ‘social capital’ seems to be used to mean anything one wants it to mean. However, comments in the economic literature are rather ambivalent about the usefulness of ‘social capital’. At least three main different opinions can be underlined. First, ‘social capital’ is thought to be an oxymoron, i.e. an awkward metaphor developed to gain conviction from a bad analogy (Solow, 1999; Arrow, 1999). The analysis of social phenomena in economics should thus be made without any reference to ‘capital’, a term that should be restricted to concepts as tangible as bricks and mortar (see, e.g., Dolfsma, 2001). Second, ‘social capital’ is seen as a Trojan horse that economists have built to colonize social science under the assumption of rationality (Fine and Green, 2000). Once again, the use of ‘social capital’ is contested because the undersocialized conception of homo economicus may introduce a distortion into the analysis of social behaviours (Granovetter, 1985).
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.