Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society

By Robert D. Putnam | Go to book overview

1
GREAT BRITAIN:
The Role of
Government
and the Distribution
of Social Capital
PETER A. HALL

One of the most striking findings to come from social science in recent years reports an apparent erosion within the United States, normally the most civic of nations, in the propensity of individuals to engage in community affairs, to trust one another, and to associate together on a regular basis. 1 As the introduction to this volume indicates, this shift in interpersonal relations may have broad consequences. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the trajectory of such patterns of sociability, and thus of social capital, in Great Britain over the past fifty years. Following the definition of social capital popularized by Robert Putnam, my focus is on networks of sociability, both formal and informal, that bring individuals into regular contact with one another, and on norms of social trust, understood as the generalized willingness of individuals to trust their fellow citizens. 2 Although measurement problems necessitate an emphasis on membership in voluntary associations, I will also consider trends in other forms of sociability, including participation in charitable endeavors and informal relations with neighbors or friends.

The British case is an unusually interesting one. Overall levels of social capital there seem to have remained relatively robust for the past fifty years, but disparities among social groups in the distribution of social capital have widened over the period, drawing attention to the distributive dimensions of a phenomenon often seen largely as a collective

-21-

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Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Democracies in Flux 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Role of Government and the Distribution of Social Capital 21
  • 2 - Bridging the Privileged and the Marginalized? 59
  • 3 - From Membership to Advocacy 103
  • 4 - Old and New Civic and Social Ties in France 137
  • 5 - The German Case 189
  • 6 - Social Capital in Spain from the 1930s to the 1990s 245
  • 7 - Social Capital in the Social Democratic State 289
  • 8 - Making the Lucky Country 333
  • 9 - Broadening the Basis of Social Capital in Japan 359
  • Conclusion 393
  • Notes 417
  • Contributors 493
  • Index 497
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