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The Social Capital Foundation

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The Social Capital Foundation (TSCF) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) that pursues the promotion of social capital and social cohesion. Created in late 2002 by Dr Patrick Hunout, it is based in Brussels. TSCF is international and focuses particularly on the current developments in the industrial countries. The profiles of its members are extremely diverse. Funded with membership, conference and expertise fees, it is an independent operating foundation. It is a not a grant-making foundation.

Social capital is a key concept in political science, sociology, social psychology, economics, and organizational behavior. It has been theorized about by a long list of scholars, from Emile Durkheim to Ferdinand Tönnies, Pierre Bourdieu, Robert Putnam, Robert Bellah, Francis Fukuyama, Patrick Hunout and others. (See the entry on social capital for more detailed discussion). However, the approach of the Foundation is more global and cannot be reduced to the use of the sole concept of social capital.

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TSCF approach to social capital

The approach of The Social Capital Foundation to "social capital" is distinct from other, more socio-economic approaches in which the term "capital" approaches some of its conventional economic meanings. TSCF promotes social capital defined in terms of mental dispositions and attitudes favoring cooperative behaviors within society.

The first assumption on which this definition is based is that social capital must not be mixed up with its manifestations.

Thus, social capital does not consist primarily in the possession of social networks, but in a disposition to generate, maintain and develop congenial relationships. It is not good neighborhood, but the openness to pacific coexistence and reciprocity based on a concept of belonging. It does not consist in running negotiations, but in the shared compromise-readiness and sense of the common good that make them succeed. It is not solely observable trust, but the predictability and the good faith necessary to produce it. It is not reductible to factual civic engagement, but resides in the sense of community that gives you lust to get involved in public life. All these downstream manifestations cannot be fully and consistently explained without reference to the upstream mental patterns that make them possible, or not.

The second assumption is that this disposition is collectivistic. It is not my individual capacity to build networks that is the most important for creating social capital but a collective, shared and reciprocal disposition to welcome, create and maintain social connections - without which my individual efforts to create such connections may well remain vain.

In that sense, The Social Capital Foundation's definition of social capital can be regarded as a semantic equivalent to the spirit of community. TSCF's approach is close to the one developed by Amitai Etzioni and the Communitarian Network, although the concerns raised by the erosion of the community trace back to diverse figures in early modern sociology such as Ferdinand Tönnies, Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim or the Chicago School of Sociology, while European ethnology, culturalism and jungism also insisted on the existence of a common soul.

TSCF promotes social capital through socio-economic research, publications, and events. The Foundation sets up international conferences on a regular basis. While research and knowledge add verified facts to the debate, social interaction contributes to further dissemination and awareness around the Foundation's approach.

Hunout and the tripartite model of societal change

Patrick Hunout, a Franco-Belgian researcher and policymaker, created in 1999 The International Scope Review and in 2002 The Social Capital Foundation. His theoretical filiation is both in the sociology of Emile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies and in the more recent contribution of social psychology and cognitive psychology research. A former stage of his work had shown that judicial decisionmaking is only possible to the extent where judges use, beyond the formal legal provisions, impersonal and universal values as decision principles -to name these, he coined the term of "global axiological space" (1985, 1990).

His later work (1995-1996, 2003b, 2003c, 2008) explored the formation of what he called a "New Leviathan", around the hypothesis that the upper class of society seeks to build a new order based on less equality and less democracy. His approach, in the form of a structural model that can evoke the analyses of Michel Foucault, suggests that, contrary to a common view, the strategies carried forward by the New Leviathan link intimately the economic, ethnic, and interpersonal fields. These strategies consist in developing economic flexibility and precariousness, promoting migrations and a multiethnic society, and pushing forward individualist,hedonist and consumerist values. In a last resort, they design a weak society, enslaved to market values and governmental controls rendered necessary by the increasing incapacity of an atomized social body to manage itself. The strategies carried forward by the ruling class explain most contemporary difficulties; if they would be inverted, a huge improvement would follow.

His collectivistic, communitarian inspiration reemerges when he suggests, to counter the strategies of New Leviathan, policies developing a democratic middle-class centered society, promoting an equitable share of wealth, protecting cultural identity against mass migrations, and strengthening shared values within the social body. These orientations are at the heart of the action of The Social Capital Foundation.

The International Scope Review

TSCF publishes The International Scope Review (TISR), an international academic journal that releases multidisciplinary research on the contemporary transformations taking place in the industrial countries. The Review publishes papers that design alternative approaches to improve our collective ability to overcome the contemporary challenges.

By linking three fields: economic relationships, interethnic relationships and interpersonal relationships, TISR attempts to offer a global understanding of the changes in society and the economy. Created in 1999, the journal has delivered 14 issues so far, bearing on multiple societal issues such as the weakening of the social bond in the developed countries, the definition and measurement of social capital, the links between suicide and individualism, the emergence of the new religions, and the contemporary crisis of the family link, - but also on sociopolitical issues such as the real objectives of European integration, the implications of mass immigration for the Western countries, the possible development of an organized civil society, tax morale and social justice.

Submissions are peer refereed on the basis of an original in-house evaluation methodology. This methodology is based on weighted criteria giving importance to both scientific quality and communication quality, which are not seen as contradictory, on the opposite. The evaluation procedure is double-blind and is run by at least two referees, one being an expert of the field/discipline of the paper submitted, the other being a general reader so as to test acceptability by the wider public. The values of the Review are intellectual independence, methodological rigor and respect to the authors.

Consolidating society through social capital

The response of The Social Capital Foundation to the weakening of the social bond, as expressed in various issues of The International Scope Review (1999, 2003, 2004, 2005), consists in expanding social capital.

TSCF's orientation emphasizes:

  • The social dimension of the market economy: tempering the effects of the free market on precariousness and social fragility, not through bureaucratic controls, but through the development of "socially responsible corporate policies", of the non-profit economy sector and of a partnership system between employers and employees in the spirit of what has been called "Rhineland capitalism",
  • The pivotal role of the middle class in modern society: promoting a society with a large, educated and wealthy middle-class able to play a responsive role in the settlement of issues, in order to favor democratic life, which may have implications for revenues, wage and tax policies, as well as for education and learning practices.
  • The necessity for improvement of social cooperation and participation: on the basis of the above, a stronger society would involve a massive reduction in the role of the governments, compensated by a raise in the role of the organized civil society (NGOs and independent organizations). Civic participation in the judicial and governmental institutions would be developed and the legal and tax systems would be democratized.
  • The preservation of cultural identity for community integration: migration policies would be restricted and third world socio-economic development policies would take over from them, while the attribution of nationality would be submitted to community approval. Thus TSCF suggested that "mass immigration helps maintain the older systems of governance. The main objective of this policy rapidly became to reconstruct a new working class, a class that was disappearing since the XIXth century, not only in terms of financial resource level but also in terms of submission to authority and social stratification" (Peace and Conflict Monitor, 09/16/2003).
  • Finally, raising the level of social capital would have implications for a wide range of behaviors on a daily basis, such as showing a lesser individualism, developing compromise-readiness, being critical to consumption values, as well as reintroducing congeniality and civility in the family, the neighborhood and the interpersonal relationships so as to learn again to live together.

TSCF International Conferences

TSCF International Conferences include:

  • The 2004 Brussels conference on the Future of Family (Brussels, May 11–13, 2004, "The Future of Family: Recomposition or Decomposition?"),
  • The 2005 Malta I conference on Social Capital (Buggiba, September 20–22, 2005, "Social Capital, Definition, Measurement, Applications"),
  • The 2008 Malta II conference on Social Inclusion (Buggiba, September 19–22, 2008, "Perspectives on Social Capital and Social Inclusion").

While the 2004 conference has shown a vacillation of the family in the Western countries, it also suggested that family as social structure may have a brighter future if well inserted into a strong wider community. Wherever family is open the wider community, this proves better for the consolidation of society and economic development, as shown by the work of Putnam, Leonardi and Nanetti on Northern vs. Southern Italy. Reciprocally, a strong sense of community in the wider society helps the formation and maintenance of solid family links. The 2005 conference has explored the issues around the definition and measurement of social capital and has shown the crucial importance of social capital for social cohesion. The 2008 conference has revolved around issues of economic development and civic engagement; it suggested ways to make public policies more efficient by orienting them to the creation of social capital. In the recent period, the conferences of TSCF tend to become more encompassing and practical, addressing for example the issues raised by the world economic crisis that developed after the so-called "subprime crisis" of 2007-2009.

Conference participants are policymakers, academicians, social workers, development professionals, and community leaders. The concept of the TSCF conferences is open to diverse types of participants - in general, to all those who want to understand better the world in which they live.

Bibliography

  • Patrick Hunout (2008), A World in Convulsions: The New Orthodoxy and the Social Order (July 2008, retrieved from http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/TSCF/TSCF%20publications.html)
  • Patrick Hunout, Maya David and Jean Dewitt (2005), Referring Governments to the Community: Henry David Thoreau Revisited (The International Scope Review, Issue 12, Volume 7, 2005)
  • Patrick Hunout and Brent Shea (2003c),The Decline of the West Revisited (The Erosion of the Social Link in the Economically Advanced Countries, The International Scope Review, Issue 10, Volume 5, 2003, ISSN 1374-1217)
  • Patrick Hunout, Brent Shea and Didier Le Gall (2003b), The Destruction of Society: Challenging the 'Modern' Triptyque: Individualism, Hedonism, Consumerism, (The Erosion of the Social Link in the Economically Advanced Countries, The International Scope Review, Issue 9, Volume 5, 2003, ISSN 1374-1217)
  • Patrick Hunout and Brent Shea (2003a), A New Look at Economic Development (Peace and Conflict Monitor, UN University for Peace, Geneva, Special Report, 09/16/2003)
  • Patrick Hunout (2000), Droit du travail et culture sociale : l'exemple allemand, (L’Harmattan, Paris, ISBN 2738477852).
  • Patrick Hunout & al. (1999), Immigration und Identität in Deutschland und Frankreich, (The International Scope Review, Thematic Issues, Deutsche Fassung, 1999).
  • Patrick Hunout (1993), L’entreprise et le droit du travail : Une comparaison franco-allemande (CIRAC, Paris, ISBN 2905518251)
  • Patrick Hunout (1990), Droit du travail et psychologie sociale (Pref. Serge Moscovici, Méridiens Klincksieck, Paris).
  • Patrick Hunout (1987), La psychologie sociale des décisions de justice : une discipline en émergence (Déviance et Société, vol. XI, n° 3, Geneva, 271-292).
  • Patrick Hunout (1985), Psychologie judiciaire et droit prud'homal (Ph.D. Thesis, Psychology, Paris, EHESS, 522 f°).
  • The International Scope Review (2005), Vol. 7, Issue 12 (Yearly),http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/journal1/volume%202005/issue%2012/issue12_edito.htm
  • The International Scope Review (2004), Vol. 6, Issue 11 (Yearly),http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/journal1/volume%202004/issue%2011/issue11_edito.htm
  • The International Scope Review (2003), Vol. 5, Issue 9 (Summer) and 10 (Winter), http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/journal1/volume%202003/issue%209/issue9_edito.htm
  • The International Scope Review (1999), Vol. 1, Issue 1 (Summer) & Issue 2 (Winter), http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/journal1/volume%201999/issue1/v1999_issue1_edito.htm
  • The International Scope Review (1998), TISR Model, 1995-1996, retrieved from http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/TSCF/tisr_model.htm
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