Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective
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Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal

Providing highly rigorous and up-to-date data, with a wide coverage of topics, this book will be of great interest to academics and students in sociology, social policy and political science. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the Nordic countries in general.
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Chapter 4: Social Capital

Torben Fridberg and Olli Kangas


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 have been used...

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