Social capital

First insertion on Heterodox Gazette Sam de Wolff: 3 april 2017

E.A. Bakkum is a blogger for the Sociaal Consultatiekantoor. He loves to reflect on the labour movement.

The present column studies the influence of social capital on the social progress. Notably the views of J.S. Coleman and R. Putnam are discussed. Putnam proposes an index for measuring social capital. He argues that society benefits from more social capital. Nonetheless, the conclusions remain controversial. Therefore the columns describes several alternative findings from psychology, philosophy, and institutionalism. This also does not eliminate the doubts about the conclusions.

Traditionally, economics is mainly concerned with the study of capital goods. Here, with a wink at Sam de Wolff, the namegiver of the Heterodox Gazette, a reference can be made to the publications of Karl Marx, with as their zenith the trilogy Das Kapital. The production factor capital C is presented as a homogeneous variable, although it is actually a collection of diverse goods. The neoricardian model of Sraffa has shown that the homogeneous capital C has little practical meaning. Nevertheless, the concept C remains extremely convenient and useful in theoretical discussions about economics.

In the production, C is used in combination with the second production factor, namely labour L. Marx has even given L a central place in his labour theory of value. Here he stresses, that L, similar to C, is not a homogeneous variable. The skills of the various workers determine the actual productivity of a unit of L. Therefore Harrod has presented the factor labour as A(t)×L, where A is a function, which at the time t determines the actual labour power of a unit of labour. A development path with such a dependency on the time t is called Harrod neutral. The value of A can be increased by means of education and training. Therefore A×L is sometimes called the human capital Ch 1. In principle human capital is an individual property, because each worker (each unit of L) is unique.

During the past decades the human sciences have added a new concept of capital, besides C and Ch, namely the social capital Cs. Within a short time, the concept Cs has become extremely popular in sociology and economics2. That is understandable, because Cs has the ambition to model the influence of the national culture on the productivity. In that sense Cs as an idea fits well with institutionalism. Yet Cs is a rather problematic concept. The present column is an attempt to clarify the meaning and theoretical value of the concept social capital.

The social capital according to Coleman

Your columnist became familiar with social capital for the first time due to the famous sociolist J.S. Coleman, who in his most important book devotes a whole chapter to it3. According to Coleman, the neoclassical paradigm (in short NCP) is an abstraction, which does not accurately describe reality. Human behaviour is not purely individualistic. Notably the human networks greatly affect all social activities. Therefore Coleman introduces the social capital as a relation between two individuals or (sub-)groups, which has the effect that certain costs of their mutual transactions decrease4. Therefore Cs is a group phenomenon with a profit, at least for some of the concerned actors. But Cs is not the property of an individual, as is the case for the other forms of capital C and Ch. For, according to the definition Cs is attached to the social relations and structures.

Since Cs does not have a clear owner, the profit can not automatically be appropriated. The surplus will be distributed rather fortuitously among those group members, that engage in the exchange. Coleman states, that in practice the value of Cs can generally not be determined quantitatively. For, the surplus is distributed in a diffuse manner, and it is not well known what would be the situation without Cs. Thus Cs is actually a qualitative concept, which symbolizes the forms of behaviour and attitudes. Here and there Coleman yet tries to make the social capital somewhat more concrete by giving examples.

Picture of CNV pin
Figure 1: Pin CNV Mondiaal

A striking example of Cs is the set of mutual obligations, which the group members create towards each other. It is known that especially in the Third World the members of a group support each other in situations of need, expecting that at a later time they can themselves lay claim to support. Those who oblige another to themselves by means of support, have accumulated a future right. In this form Cs is yet connected to the individual, who within his group carries a rucksack of rights and obligations, as it were5. The profit is created, because the obligation is honoured precisely in a situation, that allows for a huge profit. Consider for instance small farmers, who help each other during the harvest. In this view Cs will mainly grow among the poor. Coleman indeed states, that Cs decreases according as the welfare increases6.

It would be a mistake to see Cs as a capital, that allows to buy services. For, it is never certain if the others will really honour their obligations. Therefore the contents of the rucksack is rather volatile. The coherence of the group (network, circle) is essential for Cs, because it determines both the number of obligations and their reliability. It would suffice when here reliability merely refers to a predictable behaviour, perhaps in the form of a reputation. However, Coleman reduces reliability indeed to a mutual trust, in the sense of a willingness to cooperate7. This gives a special meaning to Cs, that is absent in institutionalism. For, institutionalism can easily be reconciled with competition and the NCP. This is an important difference, which in the remainder of the column will be elaborated further.

Besides obligations, Coleman includes other phenomena in Cs, notably social norms, and the structure of organizations8. In this case Cs really consists of institutions. Norms are generally derived from a common ideology, which formulates the core values of the group. Coleman does not include the ideology (morals) in Cs, probably because morals in itself do not yet create a concrete claim. Norms do, because they are rules of conduct. Facilities and rules, produced by the state, are not included in Cs by Coleman. Perhaps the reason is, that the state executes its actions by threatening with physical force. But an economic cartel or a strategic cooperation in the industry does form social capital. Here a disadvantage of Cs appears, namely that it can hurt individuals outside of the concerned circle.

The social capital according to Putnam

Coleman gives a fairly clear interpretation of the concept of social capital, although the applicability remains uncertain. But after 1995 the concept becomes truly popular, thanks to the text Bowling alone by the political scientist R. Putnam9. Actually, Putnam sees it as his mission in life the make Cs popular. In fact he approaches Cs more empirically than theoretically, contrary to Coleman. Networks (both the separate groups and circles, and their combination) form the social capital. These networks have the essential hallmark, that they generate collective norms in order to regulate the behaviour of their members. In that sense Cs looks like institutions. However, the Cs of Putnam differs from institutionalism by assuming, that trust is a part of the norms10. Here Putnam follows the theory of Coleman. Contrary to Coleman, he believes that economic networks are not a part of Cs. The core of Cs is formed by the corporate life.

The measuring-method

Now Putnam accepts the challenge of making social capital measurable. For this he uses the sociological instrument of the composite index, and defines the social capital index (in short SCI). The SCI is composed of five sub-indices, namely the intensity of corporate life, the interest in the public sector, the input of volunteers, the size of the circle of friends, and the degree of trust between people. Each sub-index is again composed of several indicators. Some of them are objective (that is to say, statistical data), and others are subjective (that is to say, personal opinions)11. The definition of the SCI can evidently not be justified theoretically. She serves merely for giving a somewhat credible impression of the inclination within society to form close networks. Putnam has computed the SCI fot the North-American member states of the Federation.

Picture of poster insurance
Figure 2: Poster Société Coopérative

Putnam is convinced that the social capital has a positive effect in many policy fields, such as education, the quality of life in quarters, the economy, care and well-being, and the political participation. This implies that the SCI is an explaining, independent variable for the performance of policies. However, here the problem arises of deceptive correlations. Namely, the SCI itself depends causally on variables such as the income Y of the group members, their level of education E, and their demographical composition D. It is a function SCI(Y, E, D, ...). Individuals with a high education dispose of larger networks, and therefore over a larger Cs. Etcetera. Incidentally, E is again a part of Ch. Furthermore, the direction of the causal relation is not always clear. Is the SCI affected by the average Y in the group, or is Y affected by the SCI? Does one have SCI→Y, so that Y = Y(SCI, E, D, ...)?

Since Putnam wants to study the effect of the netwerks themselves, he must first remove the effects of income, education and the like. That is to say, he wants to find the ceteris paribus effect, the remainder, when income, education and the like are constant. This complicates the analysis of the empirical data. Putnam indeed often states during the analysis of some phenomenon, that he corrects for the effects of Y, E and possible other variables. Yet then he still finds a rest-term of positive effects, which therefore must be due purely to the netwerk itself. In a number of cases, it turns out that the rest-term even dominates the effects of Y, E and the like. Perhaps for this reason Putnam is not interested in analyzing the direction of the causal relation between SCI and the other variables. Nonetheless, the reader will understand, that due to these complications the arguments of Putnam become vulnerable for criticism.

Even worse, the epidemiologists R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett have started a counter-movement, which argues that SCI is not the dependent variable, but the inequality δY of the incomes is! They state this in their book The spirit level, which contains at least as much empirical data as Bowling alone12. According to them, the trust increases, according as the distribution of the incomes in the society becomes more equal13. And trust is the central component in the SCI. It is stated, that the political scientist E. Uslaner has shown, that δY affects the trust T, whereas the inverse causal relation is absent. In functional notation: one has T = T(δY), but not δY = δY(T). And a falling trust destabilizes the networks and groups. Thus Wilkinson and Pickett advocate a policy, which reduces δY. They reject a policy, which wants to increase the SCI, like Putnam proposes!

Perhaps the column ought to end here with the conclusion, that the science is in the dark. However, the SCI-approach of Putnam is significantly more popular than the δY-approach. Your columnist indeed can hardly believe, that the social functioning is so dependent of the differences in incomes. The reader can learn from this exposition, that science can be used to state anything. When the stories are phantastic, and pretend to know the ultimate causes of life, it is always advisable to remain alert for unsound arguments. What are the lessons of the SCI analysis of Putnam?

The positive effect of social capital

The arguments, which Putnam uses for supporting the positive influence of social capital, are evidently essential. First, Putnam separate Cs into two components, namely the building of relational bridges with other groups (bridging), and the strenghtening of the relations within the group herself (bonding). This is sometimes called the weak ties and strong ties, or an open and closed network. It is acknowledged, that closed groups lead to the exclusion of outsiders, and to damaging competition with other groups. Putnam calls this the dark side of Cs 14. The inclination to be intolerant is especially present in the bonding capital. Its influence varies, depending on the type of network (here in the sense of association). Especially during the first half of the last century the associations still stressed the inner cohesion15.

However, Putnam concludes, that the SCI usually correlates positively with tolerance. For the sake of convenience, here he identifies Cs with brotherhood. He states that apparently brotherhood can be reconciled with freedom. And the equality (for instance a small δY) is reinforced by brotherhood, because the latter contributes to emancipation. Consider for instance the labour movement. This correlation is important, among others, for a policy, which wants to stimulate economic growth. According to Putnam Cs furthers the personal contacts, so that the number of opportunities for transactions increases. Here the weak (bridging) ties are most useful, because they reach beyond the borders of the personal group. The personal life is extended. Notably the unemployed benefit from such networks. Yet Putnam moderates his enthusiasm for Cs in this policy domain. He acknowledges, that the industries and the economic institutions benefit from a certain competition.

Picture of VARA pin
Figure 3: Pin VARA

Networks have obvious advantages in the policy domain of health and well-being. A social isolation correlates with psychic complaints. And these increase the vulnerability for psycho-somatic illnesses. Thus according to Putnam isolation is accompanied by as much illnesses as smoking. Unfortunately, contrary to smoking, the direction of the causal relations is often not clear here. But is is logical, that unhealthy behaviour must be discouraged by means of group pressure. Besides, Putnam refers to the results of happiness economics. This discipline shows, that group activities contribute to the personal happiness and well-being. Furthermore, informal networks such as the family and friends are a source of happiness.

Social capital also contributes to the living conditions in quarters. In fact this follows naturally from the definition of Cs. Yet Putnam supports this argument with empirical facts. He refers to the criminality and lack of safety in ghetto's, where often the right of the strong rules. Street gangs have Cs, but of the wrong type. Such quarters evidently also suffer from low incomes Y and an unfavourable ethnicity D. But nevertheless after a correction for these effects a rest-term is found, which correlates with the SCI. Livable quarters go together with social control. Again the direction of the causal relation is controversial. Your columnist has once studied the literature of quarters with problems, and did not find a standard solution16. Each quarter with problems is different.

It turns out that good learning performances at school correlate with a high SCI. This is even true, after a correction for Y, E, D, ... etcetera of the parents. Putnam suspects, that in such situations the parents themselves contribute to the education. Such a behaviour is found in schools, where the composition of the parents is homogeneous, for instance with regard to religion. For, mutual trusts is essential here. This Cs is of the bonding type, which is not all together beneficial17. The influence of the SCI on the functioning of the democracy is two-edged. On the one hand, high values of the SCI correlate with dutiful citizens, and thus also with an integer administration. The opportunism is rare. Then private circles will prefer self-government, wherever possible, which reduces the burden on the state. On the other hand, this are often the more wealthy circles, so that the inequality (like δY) will grow. And many pressure groups are quite extreme by nature18.

The decay of networks

Putnam convincingly shows in Bowling alone, that since approximately 1980 the social capital in the North-American Federation has decreased significantly. Since then, for instance the participation in corporate life has about halved. Putnam conscieniously analyzes the various causes of the decline. Important factors are (a) the increasing time pressure, including the entrance of women on the labour market, (b) the increase of the travelling-time by car, (c) watching television and serfing on the internet, and (d) the rise of a new generation (generation X) with a strong preference for individualism. Putnam believes, based on his analyses, that all in all the decrease of the SCI hurts society. Therefore he advocates a social offensive for reviving the corporate life. However, his plea is controversial, and moreover not relevant for the concept of social capital as such19.

The social capital in psychology

One would expect, that the theme of social capital attracts the attention of the social psychology. However, this is not true. For, the social psychology studies the behaviour of the individual, at the micro level. And Cs affects especially large groups or even the macro level. Nonetheless the psychology gives an insight in group processes and thus contains useful information about the effect of Cs on society20. First, the social psychology reveals why networks (here in the sense of small groups) are useful. They facilitate specialization and division of labour, with as positive effect that the labour productivity rises. Each group member has his own role, which allows to optimally unfold his personal talents. There is learning by means of imitation, and mutual motivation. Furthermore, the group reinforces the identity of the individuals, and therefore their self-respect.

Besides, groups offer security, because the members support each other. For, the psychology has shown, that the group members value the norm of reciprocity. There are indeed mutual obligations. Apparently this is an emotion, which incidentally is amenable to manipulation21. Besides reciprocity there is a need for various norms. This is also studied by psychology. Group norms make the individual behaviour easier to predict. In addition they transfer information. A disadvantage is that norms push all members in the same direction, so that their individual behaviour polarizes. This is exactly the danger of bonding Cs. Moreover the productive competition is curbed in this way. Therefore innovative groups always create some room for their own minorities. Here the psychology shows the complex effects of Cs: in the formation of groups the balance of proces-gain and -loss is not always positive. This depends partly on the chosen goal.

Strong bonding can impede the free distribution of information. This partly makes groups inclined to take extreme decisions (risky or cautious shift)22. This is sometimes called group think. Groups create stereotypes of their environment, and that leads to biases. Thus the world becomes manageable, and actions are possible. But this also introduces rivalry between different groups. It is obvious that this furthers excesses, where the behaviour becomes irrational. Then the narrow self-interest becomes dominant. Such hostility can be diminished only by a conscious intervention, where investments are made in bridging Cs 23.

Picture of ANMB tea-spoon
Figure 4: ANMB
  tea-spoon (1948)
  Trouw aan de

Finally, the psychology studies the pro-social behaviour of individuals, which gives useful insights in the mutual trust. Here trust implies the expectation of good will. Apparently this leads to an evolutionary advantage24. In fact here one has empathic reactions. They are curbed by time pressure and incomplete information. Here the willingness to help is always accompanied by a personal valuation of utility. This includes the effects of social control, which tries to maintain norms, such as justice and reciprocity. Apparently trust is partly a cultural phenomenon. In conclusion: the social psychology makes clear, that Cs has a decreasing marginal productivity. Moreover, the decrease is capricious, because it is specific for the given situation. This find is a nuance with regard to the optimism of Putnam.

The social capital in philosophy

Allmost all inventors of the concept social capital attach a positive value to it. They believe that Cs is an asset and an enrichment. Yet this is definitely not trivial. For, in fact an unconditional accumulation of Cs amounts to communitarianism, which disapproves of individualism, and therefore for many centuries has been combated by liberalism25. It is true that liberalism commonly acknowledges the individual right to organize as a collective. But it denies, that a higher body must intervene for that. For, then the individual autonomy and freedom of choice are actually restricted. The only collective limitation, accepted by liberalism, is the Constitution, and merely in the sense of a social contract. This implies justice, but not morals, and certainly not trust in mankind. The ultimate social norm is simply respect for the Constitution.

Communitarians believe, that individuals derive their identity from their own circle. There is a shared mental model. The ties in the circles or networks are so strong, that a debate about justice becomes superfluous26. This yields savings on the transaction costs. But the statement is more profound: someone is mentally empty without his own network27. Choices can not be made in a vacuum. Decisions (and therefore transactions) are merely possible thanks to the presence of the personal circle28. The neutral relation of the NKP simply does not exist. This is even true for the state, so that communitarians reject an ideologically neutral state, or find it unreal. The individual transactions adapt to the goals of the network29. Since communitarianism attaches so much value to the socio-history, it tends to be conservative. The conservation of the grown identity furthers the well-being. Rent-seeking behaviour of elites is ignored.

In short, according to communitarians, individuals have an obligation towards their society30. Incidentally, in most publications the social capital is presented in the form of an undogmatic communitarianism. It has just been explained, that the bridging Cs is an asset for all. On the other hand, the bridging Cs can lead to a social fragmentation, which increases the conflicts. It is desirable to have more of the first type, and a moderation of the second type. But certainly according to a protagonist such as Putnam the point, where the social capital can change into a burden, is still far away.

The social capital and institutionalism

Institutionalism is actually pre-eminently a sociological theme. Here sociology commonly uses the inductive method of the evolutionary institutionalism31. In the column about this approach it has already turned out, that institutions can harm the economy. It is true that the concept Cs combines institutions with trust, but this does not guarantee success. It is for instance conceivable, that the maintenance of cooperative networks costs more than they yield. In this respect the inductive approach deviates from the neoclassical institutionalism, which stresses the effectiveness of institutions and is deductive32. The social capital of Putnam is a case in itself, because there the economic networks and institutions are excluded. This more or less decouples the SCI from the economy. This gives the present column an exclusively sociological stamp.

Institutions must legitimize themselves, that is to say, generate the trust that they are useful33. Due to the increasing anonimity in the modern society, trust between persons is more and more replaced by trust in (and among) institutions34. For instance, trust can be placed in the national rule of law, in the national currency, in public services, or in the government. In a durable relation a reputation can be established. Trust must not be confused with a naive optimism about the future. And those who express their trust in mankind, an index that Putnam included in the SCI, actually generalize their own environment in an unreal manner35. Here the danger is, that perhaps this sub-index measures naiveté! Yet is is used frequently. Often trust has a collective nature, so that it is amenable to herd behaviour. This makes Cs volatile36.

In formal institutions some distrust is desirable37. For, that is an incentive to improve the institutions, and if necessary to bring a democratically elected alternative to power. It is known from psychology, that critical minorities are useful, as long as they act in a constructive manner. Trust makes the individuals more willing to adapt, and thus more flexible. At the same time vigilance is required, that models such as Putnam's may seduce the state into increasing Cs by means of coercion, at the cost of minorities. This is exactly the liberal criticism with regard to communitarianism38.

  1. One can also refer to the new growth theory of G.M. Grossman and E. Helpman. Here the productivity is related to the national level of knowledge. (back)
  2. See for instance p.184 in An economic theory of greed, love, groups and networks (2013, Cambridge University Press) by P. Frijters and G. Foster. The loyal reader knows, that Frijters develops a taxonomy of groups. It is remarkable, that in this taxonomy the networks are merely market relations, in fact without social capital. Frijters indeed places the economy in the centre. He states that economic networks are the source, which generates the social circles. On the other hand, sociological authors like Coleman and Putnam identify the networks with coherent groups or circles. The sociologists use the expression weak tie for transactions, that are concluded with individuals outside of the group. On p.559 and further in Neue Institutionen-ökonomik (2007, Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag) by M. Erlei, M. Leschke and D. Sauerland the various views about social capital are explained briefly. Apparently, on p.561 the authors believe, that Cs equals the informal institutions. Thanks to Cs "social" human capital could be created. In other words, Ch is divided in technical and social skills. Thus Cs and the formal institution together establish the "social" productivity. It is true that this is a model, but it looks controversial. Your columnist is not enthusiastic, because most authors base Cs on trust, and this is not necessarily present in informal institutions (although it is of course possible). (back)
  3. See chapter 10 in Foundations of social theory (1990, Harvard University Press) by J.S. Coleman. On p.10 and further in Le capital social (2006, Éditions La Découverte) the economist Sophie Ponthieux summarizes this succinctly. It has just been remarked, that the book by Frijters also explains Cs, albeit very briefly. (back)
  4. See p.302 in Foundations of social theory. (back)
  5. This graphical picture is taken from Éthique économique (2001, L'Harmattan) by F.-R. Mahieu. See especially p.185 and further. Such a rucksack implies trust. It is curious that Mahieu does not refer to social capital itself. Worth mentioning is, that according to E. Laurent on p.19 in Économie de la confiance (2012, Éditions La Découverte) trust in mankind is merely present in 4% of all Africans. In Norway the percentage is 74%. Do the Norwegians only observe their own environment? Or do they take into account the effects of the situation? It will be clear, that the trade union movement is also a form of social capital for her members. It is a paradox that its value decreases, according as the trade union movement becomes bigger and more anonymous. This is a strange property of the concept Cs. (back)
  6. See p.321 in Foundations of social theory. (back)
  7. On p.19 in Économie de la confiance E. Laurent notes, that the English language distinguishes between confidence and trust. Here confidence corresponds to a rational expectation, and trust to an emotional relation. According to Laurent Cs does not correspond to trust. Only the intensity of the networks counts. The reader is again reminded, that Frijters in An economic theory of greed, love, groups and networks also assumes an urge to cooperate. He calls this urge devotion or love. This can be interpreted as affiliation and servitude, in the religious sense. Anyway, Cs has a theological or sociological origin. In the NCP the term trust is commonly associated with a rational expectation, confidence, based on subjective probabilities. (back)
  8. Coleman pays in his book much attention to the transfer of individual rights to a representative of the group. The members believe, that their representative can use those rights to make the group as a whole more wealthy. According to Coleman on p.311 of Foundations of social theory these collected rights are a social capital for the representative. Your columnist believes, that they also imply an obligation for the representative, with regard to his group. Therefore the rights are also a debt of the representative. (back)
  9. Bowling alone first appears as a kind of pamphlet. Next Putnam decides to support his ideas with empirical research, and he publishes the results in a second Bowling alone (2000, Simon & Schuster) (with the same title). Your columnist was stimulated to read the second Bowling alone by the economist E. Laurent in Économie de la confiance and especially by the economist Sophie Ponthieux in Le capital social. Ponthieux discusses a long list of authors, who all present their own definition of Cs. Sometimes this leads to fundamental differences. Chapter 3 in Le capital social is striking, because it describes how the French antropologist P. Bourdieu defines social capital. The hallmark of the view of Bourdieu (a neo-marxist) is, that he assumes class differences in the access to Cs. The Cs can not pass the boundaries of the individual class. According to Coleman and Putnam this does occur. Ponthieux discusses the work of Putnam in chapter 4 van Le capital social. On p.62 F. Fukuyama is cited, who sees trust as the source for the formation of networks. (back)
  10. See p.21 in Bowling alone. According to Putnam trust does not precede the growth of networks, so that he clashes with Fukuyama. (back)
  11. See p.291 in Bowling alone. The composition of the SCI is as follows. (a) The intensity of corporate life has a single objective indicator, namely the number of associations per 1000 inhabitants. It has four subjective indicators, namely the average number of yearly visited club meetings, the average number of club memberships, the yearly percentage which is a member of a club commission, and the yearly percentage which has a cadre function in the club. (b) The interest in the public sector has a single objective indicator, namely the turnout in the presidential elections of 1988 and 1992. The subjective indicator is the percentage, which yearly visits a meeting of the school or of the municipal council. (c) The input of the volunteers has a single objective indicator, namely the number of non-profit associations per 1000 inhabitants. The subjective indicators are the average number of yearly participations in municipal projects, and the average number of yearly participations in volunteer's activities. (d) The size of the circle of friends has two (subjective) indicators, namely the intensity of the visits to friends, and the average number of yearly visits of friends. (e) The degree of trust between people has two (subjective) indicators, namely the percentage which trusts people in general, and the percentage which believes that people are generally honest. Putnam does not mention the weighing factors, which he uses for these various sub-indices and indicators. Since the composition of the SCI is rather arbitrary, it seems logical to give the five sub-indices all an equal weight. (back)
  12. See The spirit level (2010, Penguin Books) by R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett. On p.89 and further in Le capital social the hypothesis of Wilkinson is described, but Ponthieux refrains from a definite judgement about the importance of the SCI and δY. On p.95 in Économie de la confiance Laurent states, that the density of networks (that is, the SCI) is really an independent variable. But he doubts whether the SCI can be used in policy formation, because it is too dangerous to let the state intervene in the composition of networks. (back)
  13. See for the arguments chapter 4 in The spirit level. (back)
  14. See chapter 22 in Bowling alone. (back)
  15. The reader may remember the pillarization in the Netherlands in former times. It could only function, because the leaders of the various pillars did dispose of bridging capital. (back)
  16. Your columnist is quite educated, and already ten years ago studied impoverished quarters. This activity reflects the then interest in municipal politics. Some interesting (and read) books are An den Rändern der Städte (2004, Suhrkamp Verlag) edited by H. Häußermann, M. Kronauer, and W. Siebel, as well as Die Stadt als Beute (1999, Verlag J.H.W. Dietz Nachf.) by K. Ronneberger, S. Lanz and W. Jahn. Also De staat van de stadsvernieuwing (1985, Drukkerij Elinkwijk) by G. de Kleijn, read five years ago, still fits in this category. In the contents similar abuses are discovered as Putnam does, although the social capital is not mentioned. These European sociologists do stress more the poverty and unemployment. The problem-quarters suffer from social exclusion, notably economically, institutionally, and culturally. Unfortunately these authors do not dispose of solutions. Appropriate employment would be ideal. Lacking a good alternative, permanent subsidies are recommended. Dutch people will undoubtedly remember the Vogelaar quarters. Furthermore, worth mentioning is Kommentar zu den kommunalpolitischen Richtlinien der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (1929, Verlag J.W.H. Dietz Nachf. GmbH) by P. Hirsch, which analyzes the municipal institutions from an economic perspective. A modern sequel is Sozialdemokratie und Kommunalpolitik (2008, Parthas Verlag GmbH) by the Bundes-SGK. Your columnist did not succeed in extracting useful policy recommendations from them. (back)
  17. For, that capital discourages contacts outside of the individual group. Strangers are distrusted See p.362 and further in Bowling alone. (back)
  18. The reader may remind the book Sociaal doe-het-zelven (2013, Uitgeverij Atlas Contact) by P. Hilhorst and J. van der Lans, which is reviewed in a previous column. At least as important is the politics of the radical centre, which advocates freedom of choice and self-government. (back)
  19. So Putnam propagates a rigorous revival of corporate life, while maintaining the individualization. Your columnist doubts whether these two goals are reconcilable. And the individualization is indeed an important achievement, because she makes individuals more autonomous and therefore more assertive. It is worth mentioning that some sociologists explain the loss of corporate life from the increased pressure on the institutions to socially legitimize themselves. The membership is no longer a routine. This is actually an effect of generations. See p.96 and further in De culturele factor (1988, Uitgeverij Lemma B.V.) by A.C. Zijderveld. It will not surprise that many criticize the model of Putnam. On p.97 in Économie de la confiance it is stated, that Putnam ignores the formation of small groups. For instance, migrants remain heterogenous as a total group, but they do organize according to the various states of origin. In Le capital social the main complaint is, that Putnam underestimates the hostile competition between networks. Besides, Ponthieux stresses, just like your columnist, that in many cases Putnam does not know the causal direction. (back)
  20. For this paragraph especially Sozialpsychologie (2008, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag) by L. Werth and J. Mayer has been consulted. Much of the matter is mentioned in previous columns, such as the ones about economic networks and about the evolutionary institutionalism. (back)
  21. See p.318 and further in Sozialpsychologie. The occurrence of manipulation undermines the hypothesis of Ponthieux on p.19 and further in Le capital social, that Cs emerges accidentally. (back)
  22. See p.365 and further in Sozialpsychologie. (back)
  23. See p.413 and further in Sozialpsychologie. On p.54, 61 and 80 in Le capital social it is argued, that Putnam insufficiently takes into account the possible hostilities between networks. An extreme example is the class war in the nineteenth century. A recent example is the war in the Balkans. (back)
  24. See chapter 12 in Sozialpsychologie. The evolutionary factor is discussed in paragraph 12.2. Group members protect each other, especially when the procreation is in danger. Empathic emotions cause distress, which stimulates support. (back)
  25. This paragraph is mainly based on Communitarisme versus libéralisme (2003, Uitgaven van de Universiteit van Brussel) by Justine Lacroix. (back)
  26. See p.65 and further in Communitarisme versus libéralisme. (back)
  27. See p.74 and also p.81 in Communitarisme versus libéralisme for the view of Walzer. On p.76 and further Sandel defends a similar standpoint, as well as Taylor on p.88, 93 and 122. The socio-cultural bonding imposes values (p.80). (back)
  28. See p.96 and further, as well as p.125 en p.137 in Communitarisme versus libéralisme. (back)
  29. See p.87 and further, and p.126 in Communitarisme versus libéralisme. (back)
  30. See p.132 in Communitarisme versus libéralisme. (back)
  31. In the Netherlands the sociologist A.C. Zijderveld has published much about institutionalism. Already 23 years ago your columnist read the book De culturele factor (1988, Uitgeverij Lemma B.V.) by this author. It is obvious that here the economy is less central than in the evolutionary institutionalism of North. But the essential message of Zijderveld and North is the same. It concerns social learning processes and a stabilization, which makes the individual actions less expensive. Thanks to modernity the instrumental rationality becomes more and more important. Zijderveld stresses in his argument the national culture, which gives a concrete meaning to abstract institutions (like marriage or religion). Here he is close to Putnam. Incidentally, since then the sociology has advanced, because concepts like trust, bonding or even networks are still missing in this book.
    Also 23 years ago your columnist read Paradoxen van modernisering (1993, Dick Coutinho BV) by H. van der Loo and W. van Reijen (perhaps at the time the personal-cognitive basis was laid for the Heterodox Gazette!). In this book institutionalism is almost self-evident. It does address the social control and networks. As a curiosity Vorming van welzijnsbeleid (1976, Boom) by B. Peper can be mentioned, which analyzes the institutionalization ofsocial work. He calls the institutionalization a conscious social action. The principal-agent problem is addressed implicitly. Social work fits with the ambitions of Putnam, because the ultimate goal is private initiative. (back)
  32. Here the audacious book An economic theory of greed, love, groups and networks must also be mentioned, notably the paragraph 4.3. Frijters prefers an economic approach, where the various types of capital C, Ch, Cs etcetera are all included in a production function. Therefore the function has as its variables among others the number of trade contacts, the institutional capital, trust, and informal networks. Here the institutional capital is more or less similar to the formal institutions. The informal networks are in the spirit of Putnam, namely corporate life. When one considers, that various qualities of informal networks exist, for instance bonding or bridging, doubts about the usefulness of the concept Cs naturally emerge. The various types of Frijters mainly illustrate the chaos, that still haunts this discipline. Thanks to the production function various useful concepts from economics become accessible, such as the hypothesis of the decreasing marginal product for production factors. Incidentally, Frijters focuses on the economic sphere, and mentions neither Coleman nor Putnam. After reading his book it took your columnist three more years to discover them. (back)
  33. See p.7 and further in Économie de la confiance. Trust can be put in an individual or a group. Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable in a transaction, so that one may become the victim of opportunism (p.20 there). Laurent believes that it is founded on both rationality and morals (p.30). On p.18 Laurent mentions also vague concepts, such as the consumer confidence or the confidence in economic activity. He believes that these are actually rather irrational emotions. He expresses the same criticism with regard to selfconfidence (p.38) (back)
  34. See p.71 in Économie de la confiance. On p.247 and further in An economic theory of greed, love, groups and networks it is argued, that the traditional corporate life is not very efficient for making contacts. It is often more effective to make contacts in a formal manner, namely by means of professional organizations. Putnam does not give much attention to such economic arguments. (back)
  35. See p.41 in Économie de la confiance. See also p.55 for criticism of the concept "confidence in mankind". (back)
  36. See p.81 in Économie de la confiance. See furthermore p.68, where this is called a conjunctural component. This is intriguing, because in 1929 Sam de Wolff comes to the same conclusion. See p.223 and further in Het Economisch Getij (1929, J. Emmering). Perhaps De Wolff would explain the present fall in Cs by a downward long cycle movement! (back)
  37. See p.88 and further in Économie de la confiance. On p.283 in An economic theory of greed, love, groups and networks the importance of periodical democratic changes of power is stressed, which is also an organized distrust. (back)
  38. This actually already happens. On p.66 van Le capital social it is mentioned, that Putnam and his team advise the Worldbank and the OECD. The Worldbank wants to use the SCI as an instrument of development. This project even undermines the Washington consensus (p.77). The networks must have the effect, that the national institutions remain cohesive (p.80). But the national differences make it difficult to realize a universal policy (p.84 and further). Incidentally, also Tinbergen with his ideas about the development of the Third World, aiming at industrialization, was probably insufficiently aware of the rigidity of institutions. (back)