Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal
4. Social capital Torben Fridberg and Olli Kangas INTRODUCTION It is argued that each scientiﬁc generation invents the wheel anew. The debate revolving around the concept of social capital is not an exception to this rule. According to Robert Putnam (2000, p. 19), the concept of social capital has been invented at least six times during the last decennium. The core of the concept was already sketched in the ﬁrst usage of the term. In 1916 West Virginian rural educator L.J. Hanifan deﬁned social capital to pertain to good will, fellowship, sympathy and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit . . . The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself . . . If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality suﬃcient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. (quoted from Putnam 2000, p. 19) Since Hanifan’s writings a large amount of printing ink has been used to debate the real meaning of social capital and what the concept is good for. The importance of social capital for economic development and democracy has become widely acknowledged by social scientists of all kinds. Economists, sociologists and political scientists have all taken an interest in this concept, but not that many new ideas have been added since then. The quotation includes all the central elements that...
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