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

By Robert D. Putnam | Go to book overview

5
A DECLINE OF
SOCIAL CAPITAL?

The German Case
CLAUS OFFE
AND SUSANNE FUCHS

There is no evident decline of social capital in Germany, or so we shall argue. But any such proposition is entirely contingent on the conceptualization employed, the measurement applied, and the available data.


SOCIAL CAPITAL: A CONCEPTUAL EXPLORATION

Social capital is conceptualized here as a collectively owned resource of local, regional, and national societies or segments thereof. This resource can vary as to the amount that is available; it can be smaller or greater, grow or decline. If a high amount of this collective capacity or resource is available and widely dispersed throughout a society, the returns are hypothesized to consist in the desirable effects of economic performance and “good government.” This favorable effect is due to the fact that social capital, by definition, includes all those behavioral dispositions that help to reduce transaction costs (e.g., trust relations facilitate exchange) and to overcome the undersupply of public goods that results from the propensity to be a free rider (benefit from the collective efforts of others without contributing). Also, a dense network of associational activities is likely to unburden state and local governments. Variations of the level of

-189-

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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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