The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics
Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen
Chapter 15: The Environment
Kim Mannemar Sønderskov Introduction Social capital helps solve collective action problems. In the presence of social capital, groups of actors are able to cooperate and provide collective goods not provided in other groups. That is the main message from the growing literature on social capital (Coleman, 1990: ch. 12; Putnam, 1993: ch. 6, 2000: ch. 16; Uslaner, 1999; Paldam and Svendsen, 2000; Ostrom and Ahn, 2003; Rothstein, 2005: ch. 1; Nannestad, this volume). Collective action problems arise in association with provision of nonexcludable goods – that is, goods nobody can be excluded from enjoying (Musgrave, 1959). Every potential contributor to a non-excludable good thus faces the dilemma: should I contribute even though I can enjoy the good without doing so? Most of us face such dilemmas in many aspects of life: should I pay a higher price for fair trade products such as TransFair or Max Havelaar? Should I occasionally give up my right of way to help the traﬃc ﬂow more smoothly? Should I vote? Sign petitions? Demonstrate? And so on. Collective action dilemmas crop up in many aspects of life and are relevant to all the social sciences. In political science, collective action dilemmas have been proclaimed the central issue (Ostrom, 1998). Given the expected beneﬁcial eﬀect of social capital on collective action problems, the popularity of the concept is not surprising. There are also collective action dilemmas in relation to the natural environment. Pollution abatement and a sound environment are paradigm cases of a...
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