The socio-economic power of social capital: A double test of Putnam's civic society argument

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– According to Putnam, civic engagement fosters a cooperative structure and generalized trust. This leads to accumulation of social capital, in the form of inclusive, cooperative networks that are economically productive. The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically this thesis.

– Drawing upon data from rural Denmark, this paper double tests Putnam's somewhat simplistic model of social capital leading to higher levels of economic performance.

– In test one, which is based on statistical data, it is found that social capital measured as the density of voluntary associations does not in any way influence levels of economic performance. Test two, based on qualitative fieldwork, points at the socioeconomic power of social capital, implying many positive and negative outcomes other than the sheer economic.

Research limitations/implications
– Data are only from Denmark.

Practical implications
– This paper reframes the social capital research agenda, displaying to policy makers that they should not overestimate the blessing of voluntary associations.

– This paper contributes to the sociological critique of the one‐sided, positive picture of civic associations.
TidsskriftInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Udgave nummer9/10
Sider (fra-til)411-429
StatusUdgivet - 2006


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