The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics
Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen
Chapter 9: Social Capital: The Dark Side
Peter Graeﬀ Introduction In the past decade, the concept of social capital gained tremendous popularity in social science literature. Beside the classical factors of production and human capital, it has now a proper place in the academic discussion. Social capital occurs when people use social relationships to accomplish personal goals. While this idea was picked up in various theoretical concepts, the positive consequences of social capital dominated the scientiﬁc debate. Especially if social capital is associated with people’s participation in networks and with interpersonal trust, it was identiﬁed as an important resource to solve collective problems (Putnam, 1993). It does have an economic pay-oﬀ in the sense that economies with bigger stocks of social capital are more prosperous and grow faster (Knack and Keefer, 1997). But in order to understand the forces driving social capital relationships and to get a more complete picture, negative implications of the social processes deserve attention as well. In literature, negative consequences are inherently part of special social bonds. They are, however, seldom considered as those. Take as an example the distinction between bridging and bonding social capital (Putnam, 2000). These categories refer to the type of cohesion when people are brought together: bridging social capital emerges among heterogeneous group members and bonding social capital takes place among homogeneous members. Bonding ties are aiming at the social network itself and do leave little space for people with diﬀerent characteristics than those the group members already possess. Typical examples are ethnic groups or...
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