On the nature of social capital

Having last year self-published my first book, I’m feeling the need to repeat the process and start building up a library on Kindle. I’ve got a few ideas for topics, but easiest pickings are to re-draft the 150+ pages of research material I initially compiled in the early-mid-2000s towards an unsubmitted PhD thesis on social capital, economic performance and human welfare.

Thankfully I have a full draft in electronic form, with various bits I have added to it in recent years with no particular intention. There’s some useful material in there but it’s currently written so densely and academically that it needs a re-write to make it more readable.

This morning, I sat down and crafted a one-page introduction and a full chapter on ‘defining social capital’. Here’s an early teaser…

“The phrase social capital was originally coined in the early 20th Century by Mr Lyda J. Hanifan, a state supervisor of rural schools in West Virginia, to describe “good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit”. Since that time, it has been intermittently rediscovered and redefined to describe various features of the social and political environment. The phrase was popularised by sociologists and political scientists in the 1980s and 1990s including Coleman (1988), Putnam (1993) and Fukuyama (1995)….

Economists commandeered and redefined social capital in the 1990s and 2000s to include any non-market phenomenon that facilitates cooperative production, including social trust, civic-mindedness, networks of informal association and features of the institutional environment….

Theory and evidence suggest that social capital is comprised of both a civil and institutional form, characterised by generalised social trust and good governance respectively, each of which interacts and has complex impacts on economic performance and human welfare. The literature also makes a distinction between generalised social trust (bridging social capital) which exists across sub-groups of society and interpersonal trust (bonding social capital) within sub-groups. Some forms of bonding social capital, such as interpersonal trust within criminal groups, may negatively impact economic performance and human welfare, whereas generalised social trust is posited to have an unambiguously positive value….”

Further source material is contained in various unpublished papers including:

Killerby (2001) “Social capital and human welfare: Results from the 1995-97 World Values Survey”, presented at the New Zealand Association of Economists (NZAE) conference, 27-29 June 2001, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Killerby (2001) “Social capital and economic performance: A latent variables approach”, presented at the New Zealand Association of Economists (NZAE) conference, 27-29 June 2001, Christchurch, New Zealand.



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