This little blog post is about a new e-book I self-published via Amazon, titled ‘Social capital and the wellbeing of nations: Literature view and policy implications‘.
The back-story to this book starts in 1999. In my early 30s, I was working as Social Research Officer at Rotorua District Council and, in parallel, coming to terms with a failed marriage. I was desperately seeking a way to raise myself up mentally. At some point during the year I applied for a three-year PhD scholarship at the University of Otago, and somehow got myself accepted.
The doctoral topic was ‘Social capital and economic performance’, which involved a tonne of reading, data collection, econometric modelling of social capital and economic performance, development of articles for journal publication (often in partnership with one or more other researchers) and presentations at seminars and conferences.
While all of the above went well, I never ended up completing and submitting my doctoral thesis. Instead, after the three years I began full-time consulting with a view to finalising the thesis part-time. However, after three years cloistered in Dunedin, I was more interested in working long hours, earning good income and socialising with old friends.
In August 2005, I finally conceded to myself and my PhD supervisors that I was not going to finish the thesis. In part it was for the reasons above, but also because the subject matter – mathematically estimating the economic value of social capital – just seemed so esoteric and dry to me, remote from the realities and interests around me at the time.
Nevertheless, the discipline of academic researching and writing in which I immersed myself during 2000-2003 has served me well in subsequent years. For many subsequent years, I sought to publish articles in academic journals, to ‘keep my hand in’. In my day job at the Queensland Department of Education, the most satisfying outputs personally are those that involve a final published document. For me, the process of understanding is intertwined with the process of explaining – a virtuous circle, as it were. Articulating in writing my thoughts on a topic or argument has become cathartic. Even the process of writing this blog post gives me a sense of short-term personal achievement and closure that I can carry with me through the rest of the day.
In any event, after publishing my first e-book in December 2017, I decided to finalise my thesis and publish it myself in e-book format. After thinking long and hard about a meaningful strategy, particularly for updating the literature review (given the massive proliferation of research on social capital in the past two decades), I got stuck in and invested sporadic chunks of time here and there until finally I was satisfied.
So, was it worth it? Well I definitely felt a sense of closure. Was it a worthwhile addition to the stock of human knowledge? That is harder for me to assess, having grown fairly close to the topic over the past 19 years and having mixed feelings even to this day – which is why I am only just writing about this in January 2020 after publishing it in April 2019.
So here’s the Abstract to help you reach your own conclusion without reading 167 pages – enjoy….
“This book is for people interested in social capital. It seeks to summarise key theoretical and empirical information on social capital and linkages with economic performance and societal wellbeing. It is underpinned by a broad-ranging literature review encompassing the fields of economics, sociology and political science. A comprehensive list of references is provided. The literature review was done in two stages – initially in the early to mid-2000s, and subsequently in 2018 to capture key literature published over the intervening period.
The phrase social capital has been adopted by academics and policy makers to describe features of society that facilitate cooperation or collective effort. Theory and evidence suggest that social capital is comprised of both a civic and institutional form, characterised by generalised social trust and good governance. Each of these forms has complex impacts on economic performance and human welfare.
Key findings from the literature highlight that countries’ social capital, health, education, wealth, and happiness are intertwined. The marginal value of these intangible societal assets is high in poor countries and lessens when countries have achieved higher levels of economic and social development. Many policy makers therefore view social capital as a key resource for addressing poverty reduction and economic development.”