Social Capital Working Group

The notion of social capital has shot to prominence over the last twenty years across the entire spectrum of social science despite its being fundamentally flawed. It has also been extremely prominent in policy debate, having been both heavily promoted by the World Bank and adopted rhetorically by governments and politicians both to the left and right of “centre” (although the application of social capital in policy has been extremely limited). In practice, if not in principle given its earliest modern origins in the work of radical sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the social capital literature has been: complicit with market imperfections approach to economics; served as a disguised vehicle for promotion of rational choice; neglected the global, power, conflict, class, the state and context; raised self-help from the individual to the collective level; and degraded many traditions of social theory across networks, trust, reciprocity, etc. Thus, whilst purporting to put civil society back on the agenda, it ignores the rich critical traditions that have already addressed civil society, resurrecting the idea that the latter makes up some sort of structural interaction with state and economy.

This account necessarily generalises over what is now a huge literature, one that is also shifting in content and direction, with a tendency currently to seek to bring back in what previous homogenising treatments have omitted, itself undermining the idea that any two applications of social capital have any commonality. Mercifully, there is now a substantial literature highly critical of social capital although the latter’s proponents have rarely engaged with critics other than to incorporate another variable or two in the understanding of social capital. But the weaknesses of social capital are so crippling to those who have any intellectual integrity that the response is often not to engage at all. It is significant and welcome, for example, that there is very little by way of Marxist contributions along the lines that capitalism destroys social capital of the good type and socialism would create it (and vice-versa for bad social capital). This is because social capital is a sort of oxymoron for anyone with any sensitivity to political economy and the corresponding understanding of “capital” as social in the economic arena. But it would be a mistake to allow social capital to go its separate way without continuing to engage critically. In part, this is because it is itself evolving across and within disciplines – Putnam’s latest paper, for example, based on a massive research project has reached the conclusion that ethnic diversity decreases social capital, this with scarcely a mention of racism and its underlying determinants. In addition, social capital continues to influence the diverse directions and content of separate disciplines as they respond to the current intellectual climate of economics imperialism, on the one hand, and the dual retreat from postmodernism and neo-liberalism on the other.

The aim of the working group is to develop a platform for the exchange of ideas and research that offer critical but constructive responses to recent literature on social capital. For the time-being, the present site will serve to host papers that address these issues. We also welcome discussions and suggestions for ways to further expand the activities and participation of the working group.

The IIPPE working group on social capital seeks to address the following themes

  • The intellectual history of social capital and its continuing dynamic and content.
  • Social capital and socioeconomic stratification –with social capital either being used to stratify at expense of, by ignoring, traditional categories such as class, race, gender, etc, or traditional categories are seen as depositories of social capital without reference to their wider significance.
  • Social capital and social theory – general degradation of scholarship around concepts deployed in social theory, trust, networks, etc
  • Social capital and disciplines – different presence and role of social capital in different fields of social science.
  • Social Capital, the World Bank and development.
  • Social capital and policy.
  • Social capital and regions, countries, and case studies.
  • Social capital and intellectual entrepreneurship (the social capital of social capital).
  • Offering of alternatives and refuting the false claim that social capital addresses what was not addressed before and those who do not take social capital seriously do not take non-economic social relations seriously.

For the best website on social capital (although generally supportive, it does cover critical literature) see http://www.socialcapitalgateway.org.

Papers Currently Available

Contact

To apply to join IIPPE social capital working group, email iippe@soas.ac.uk.

Announcements

NEW!!!

 

IIPPE’s Sixth International Conference in Political Economy, University of Leeds, UK, September 9-11, 2015

Panel Proposal: Social Capital – Re-capturing the Collective Dimensions of the Economy for a More Pluralist and Interdisciplinary Economics  

Organisers: Asimina Christoforou, Athens University of Economics and Business and Luca Andriani, Birkbeck, University of London

Social capital, identified generally as trust, norms and networks, is often studied for the ways it can facilitate cooperation for individual well-being and social welfare. Yet critical views of social capital claim that even though the concept was applied to underscore aspects of collective action, it provided economists and institutions oriented toward the neoclassical tradition with the means to promote individualist and instrumentalist perceptions of social capital that overlook collective dimensions of the economy. Nonetheless, there have been many attempts to re-contextualise and re-operationalise the concept of social capital in order to incorporate its collective aspects on the basis of alternative principles of human behaviour. Generally these attempts support the collaboration of scholars in various disciplines and the application of different approaches and methods, and aspire to restore the pluralist and activist features of the economy and economics.

These collective dimensions, characteristic of social and scholarly discourse (even more so in the social sciences that study human behaviour), can pertain to: the social and institutional embeddedness of the economy; the pluralism of needs, priorities, values and attitudes; the complex processes of participation and coordination, struggle and debate, collaboration and consensus between diverse and conflictual interests in both the public and private spheres; and the combination of multiple meanings and principles, and thus of various disciplines and perspectives of social science research, aiming at a more realistic and holist understanding of the economy.

In this context, we would like to invite contributions that re-address the concept and measures of social capital in a way that enables us to incorporate the complex reality of social relations, as a dynamic space where people interact, define and pursue, individually and collectively, principles and objectives, means and ends for well-being. Such alternative perceptions have the potential not only to helps us rethink the ways we see social relations, but also the way we see the economy and economics.

Thus, we encourage contributions that not only deal with the ontology and methodology of social capital, but also examine how this can become a vehicle to re-capture the collective aspects of the economy and economics. Included are contributions that focus on how networks, organisations, and various collectives can impact the way we perceive the economy and economics and become advocates of pluralism, multiplicity and activism. We welcome works that derive from various social science disciplines and use different units of analysis (individual, regional, country or cross-country level), methodologies and techniques (theoretical, empirical, qualitative and quantitative).

Abstracts (500 words maximum) should be submitted to Asimina Christoforou (asimina.christoforou@gmail.com) and Luca Andriani (luca.andriani@bbk.ac.uk ) by March 25, 2015.

 

 

IIPPE Fifth Annual Conference in Political Economy, International Institute for Social Studies, Naples, Italy September 16-18, 2014

Panel proposal: The Dark Side of Social Capital: Alternative Ways of Understanding and Confronting Corruption, Distrust and Conflicts

Organisers: Asimina Christoforou, Athens University of Economics and Business and Luca Andriani, Birkbeck, University of London

Putnamian conceptions of social capital tend to focus on the positive side of associational behaviour. Norms and networks are usually conceived as factors that are naturally and inevitably conducive to protecting social interests by cultivating social cohesion, generalised trust and inclusive networks of heterogeneous social groups. This often overlooks the underlying norms and networks developed to serve the particularised interests of smaller groups at the expense of public welfare.

The surge of corruption scandals across countries reveals numerous stories in which public officials are accused of embezzlement of taxpayers’ money, while citizens appear to conceal their assets to safeguard them from tax authorities by using legal ‘loopholes’ particularly in global transactions. There are talks of states that essentially are not run by constitutionally-defined government bodies but by covert coalitions of high-powered individuals and groups that use whatever means are at their disposal to determine the fate of entire countries and regions for their personal benefit. The inequality in the distribution of rights and resources triggers a sense of injustice and distrust toward state institutions that promised to protect public welfare and toward the social groups that appear to take part in the misappropriation of public wealth. This gives rise to social conflicts and polarisation and thus opens the door to extreme expressions of discrimination and oppression against groups, like ethnic minorities and immigrants, who often take the blame for the worsening of economic and social conditions, after they have been driven out of their own countries to avoid poverty or persecution. For example, studies on the current global crisis speak of major financial and political actors that orchestrate the deregulation of domestic and global markets, and stress the unhindered and intractable flow of financial assets toward toxic bonds or tax havens that profit the few by transferring the costs of the systems’ failures to society through austerity measures that only deepen the depression.

In this context, we would like to study the so-called ‘dark side of social capital’, forms of association that are anti-social in that they exclude segments of the population and compromise social welfare. Some topics can include: definitions and cases of corruption; the rise in distrust toward market and state institutions and its consequences in the course of the history and the reformulation of power relations; the conflicts that emerge in different countries as a result of the worsening of economic conditions and the international reshuffling of interests. The current crisis can provide an important case study, but is not the only source for investigating the ‘dark side’.

We would particularly encourage contributions that explore ways in which the ‘dark side’ can be overcome by new forms of social groups and networks that trust in their values of social solidarity to reclaim the welfare of the people. This would stress the conditions under which norms and networks of trust, cooperation and reciprocity can be re-assessed and re-structured to confront the ‘dark side’ and create an environment to serve generalised interests. We welcome works that derive from various social science disciplines and use different units of analysis (individual, regional, country or cross-country level), methodologies and techniques (theoretical, empirical, qualitative and quantitative).

Abstracts (500 words maximum) should be submitted to Asimina Christoforou (asimina.christoforou@gmail.com) by the 20th of March 2014.

 

 

IIPPE Fourth Annual Conference in Political Economy, International Institute for Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands July 9-11, 2013

Panel Proposal: Pro-social Strategies for Public Welfare: The Role of Social Capital and Trust

Organisers: Dr. Luca Andriani (Birkbeck College University of London, UK) and Dr. Asimina Christoforou (Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece)

The Fourth International Conference in Political Economy will take place in The Hague (The Netherlands) July 9-11, 2013. The conference theme is “Activism and Alterative Economic Strategies” in light of the on-going economic and political crisis (for details, please consult IIPPE’s new website at http://iippe.org/wp/).

As members of the IIPPE social capital working group, we propose a panel on “Pro-social Strategies for Public Welfare: The Role of Social Capital and Trust”. In the past decades, state and market institutions have failed to deliver redistribution and welfare in both developing and high-income geopolitical contexts, particularly after the global economic crisis broke out. This induced agents to engage in short-term, self-oriented strategies either to consolidate their power or salvage a subsistence level of living, which impedes collective action for social reform and the promotion of long-term public benefits. Nonetheless, and in response to deeper recession, social upheaval and political instability, there are collective efforts for social awareness and mobilisation to confront immediate problems of destitution and to reclaim people’s right to a quality of life.

In this sense, this panel aims to open a constructive discussion on the role of social capital and trust in building pro-social strategies for public welfare. We ask how norms and networks of cooperation, reciprocity and trust could facilitate – or hinder – a wider range of pro-social strategies, which could include, but are not limited to:

  • active social and political participation to deal with the democratic deficit of both the developed and developing world;
  • assessing events of corruption associated not only with the effects and motives of rent-seeking behaviour and tax evasion, but also with the imperspicuous transactions of powerful economic and political groups;
  • advocacy and redistributive functions of non-governmental organisations and voluntary associations that represent disadvantaged groups and fight for their needs and rights;
  • activities of social enterprises and cooperatives that provide alternative ways of production, based on general-interest objectives and innovative forms of democratic participation of stakeholders, workers and investors.

We welcome works that derive from various social science disciplines and use different units of analysis (individual, regional, country or cross-country level), methodologies and techniques (theoretical, empirical, qualitative and quantitative).

Abstracts (500 words maximum) should be submitted to Luca Andriani (luca.andriani@bbk.ac.uk) and/or Asimina Christoforou (asimina.christoforou@gmail.com) by the 10th of February 2013.

We look forward to your contribution in organising yet another successful panel at the annual IIPPE conference!

Third International Conference in Political Economy – Call for Papers – Panel Proposal: Pierre Bourdieu and Economics

As coordinator of the IIPPE social capital working group, I would like to inform you of a conference that will be held in Paris, France, 5-8 July 2012, and jointly organised by the Association for Heterodox Economics (AHE), the French Association of Political Economy (FAPE), and the International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE). The conference theme is “Political Economy and the Outlook for Capitalism” and aims at bringing together scholars from all strands of political economy and heterodox economics in order to discuss their future and the recent developments in the global economy and in economic science following the global economic crisis. Further details on specific topics and important dates are included in the call for papers I have attached. (For relevant information, you can also consult the website at http://www.assoeconomiepolitique.org/political-economy-outlook-for-capitalism/).

For this conference, I would like to propose a panel with a general theme on the contribution of Pierre Bourdieu in economics. Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) is a French sociologist, who has used the concept of social capital, along with forms of cultural and symbolic capital, to explain the reproduction of capitalist social structures and power relations. Also, he is known for his personal engagement in social struggles against neoliberal globalisation, and his active participation in the movement for intellectual autonomy and the protection of public interest.

Almost a decade after his death, and in the midst of the worst recession that the world has experienced since WWII, Bourdieu’s works and views on neoliberalism, the role of academia, and the need for resistance at a global scale are today more relevant than ever before. I think that the conference offers a great opportunity to discuss the difficulties of our times and Bourdieu’s contribution in this regard. I thus invite you to submit papers and ideas for a panel that will focus on Bourdieu’s work.

Abstracts should be submitted to Asimina Christoforou (asimina@aueb.gr) by the end of January, 2012.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Asimina Christoforou

PhD, Department of International and European Economic Studies, Athens University of Economics and Business (Greece).

Third International Conference in Political Economy – Call for Papers – Panel Proposal: Social Capital, Trust and Public Spirit

The Third International Conference in Political Economy will take place in Paris July 5-8, 2012 and it is jointly organised by the Association for Heterodox Economics (AHE), the French Association of Political Economy (FAPE), and the International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE). The conference theme is “Political Economy and the Outlook for Capitalism”. This major event aims to bring together scholars from all strands of political economy in order to develop a widespread discussion about the recent developments in the global economy and in economic science following the global economic crisis.

As member of the IIPPE social capital working group, I would like to propose a panel on “social capital, trust and public spirit”. In the last three years the global political economy has been experiencing uncertainty and instability not only under the international financial perspective but also under a more institutional one: Arab Spring, European Crisis, “Greek” crisis and so on. Social Capital, Trust and Public Sprit are part of this scenario acting as factors able to affect and/or to be affected by economic, institutional and financial instability. The panel aims to open an interesting discussion about the role of social capital, trust and public spirit in relation to economic and institutional aspects. Empirical as well as theoretical papers are welcome. The analysis can be at regional, country or cross-country level.

Abstracts should be submitted to Luca Andriani (luca.andriani@bbk.ac.uk) by the end of January 2012.

I am looking forward to hearing from you

Luca Andriani

Lecturer Economics, Department of Management, Birkbeck College University of London, UK.