Social Capital versus Social Theory: Political Economy and Social Science at the Turn of the Millennium

Social Capital versus Social Theory: Political Economy and Social Science at the Turn of the Millennium

Social Capital versus Social Theory: Political Economy and Social Science at the Turn of the Millennium

Social Capital versus Social Theory: Political Economy and Social Science at the Turn of the Millennium

Synopsis

This volume traces the origins of social capital through the work of Becker, Bourdieu and Coleman, and comprehensively reviews the literature across the social sciences.

Excerpt

The last two decades have been unkind to political economy. The 1970s had witnessed unprecedented success—in response to the post-war boom and its demise, the political radicalisation of the 1960s, the liberal expansion of higher education, and an ideological climate in which the contentious issue was whether Keynesianism, welfarism and decolonisation were enough by way of state intervention. Political economy and political economists flourished as never before, alongside journals, books and Capital-reading groups. Most of this has been thrown into reverse following the rise of monetarism, concerns about gaining employment, increasingly conservative and uniform curricula, and a questioning of whether Keynesianism, welfarism and the post-colonial state are too much by way of obstruction to the global market. Political economists within economics departments have been left high and dry, increasingly needing or choosing to conform with orthodoxy in teaching and research and with little prospect of enjoying sympathetic support from colleagues, let alone arrival of, or replacement by, like-minded scholars. Indeed, possibly more than any other discipline, economics has become dominated by its own neoclassical orthodoxy, one which is widely recognised from outside to be far removed from economic realities, to be totally intolerant of other approaches, and to be equally ignorant of its own history as a discipline as well as its fellow social sciences. Further, its supposedly rigorous and scientific commitment to mathematical modelling and statistical methods have become so demanding for both students and academics that breathing space scarcely exists to allow for more circumspect considerations. How could you, for example, tell students during or after three years of hard grind that a few simple criticisms suffice to render that effort essentially worthless other than in learning what economics is really like, no matter how its results might be presented informally or for popular consumption. In short, anyone interested in economies, especially from a progressive and/or critical perspective, would surely give economics a wide berth. Indeed, students have been voting with their feet, the vocationally inclined streaming in hordes to accounting, business and finance, and the less self-interested seeking refuge in the “softer” and more relevant social sciences.

To someone who had benefited considerably from the earlier rise of political

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