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Talk:Social capital/Archive 1

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The first draft of this article was written by Mark Middleton, a graduate student in sociology at West Virginia University. Unlike many contemporary approaches to social capital, this initial definition places explicit emphasis on economic capital. This article is part of the WVU contribution to the CZ:Eduzendium initiative.

Roger Lohmann 18:50, 2 January 2008 (CST)

Is it intended to consider the economic influence of social capital?-Nick Gardner 02:35, 10 June 2008 (CDT)

Roger - I have been encouraged by your email to give some thought to the possibility of expanding this article to include specific economic effects. This turns out not to be straightforward because different categories may have different effects, and quantification of those effects is bedevilled by measurement difficulties. In the end I settled on the draft structure of headings that you see. The "economic significance" heading would contain a range of sub-paragraphs, the structure of which I hope to develop as I attempt to draft the text. I am taking it for granted, on the basis of you email, that this will not conflict with the Eduzendium project. What do you think? - Nick Gardner 09:22, 23 June 2008 (CDT)

It is hard to see why a reference to the Social Capital Foundation has been placed under the heading of definitions. Nick Gardner 15:44, 26 June 2008 (CDT) I have now transferred it to the bibliography subpage. Nick Gardner 09:57, 5 July 2008 (CDT)

As I have given further consideration to detailed matters such as the measurement of social capital, I have felt impelled to make a few amendments to Mark Middleton's draft. One reason for doing so is a realisation that it is unwise to be dogmatic about the effects of social capital. For example, Mark's opening statement was, in my opinion, mistaken in implying that its effects are always beneficial (think of the Robbers Cave experiments) and I have amended it to avoid that implication. Another reason is my conviction that, while we should present the reader with an account of the received wisdom, we should leave it to him/her to decide whether to believe it. That has led me to insert qualifications on the lines of "it is generally held that" here and there. Thirdly, I have become aware of the danger of the circularity trap of defining social capital as what makes people better off and then using its statistics to demonstrate that it makes people better off. Some of my amendments were to avoid pre-empting what has to be said about that problem (yet to be drafted). However, I should welcome comments on all this, especially in view of my lack of sociology qualifications. Nick Gardner 05:32, 27 June 2008 (CDT)

A late realisation that this topic remains a matter of controversy - concerning such matters as how it should be defined, what it should include and how it should be measured - has led me to add some further qualifications and to add a concluding section for objections and qualifications. Nick Gardner 06:02, 1 July 2008 (CDT)

The text that is to appear under the heading of "Sociological implications" is being withheld for the time being, in the hope that a sociology scholar will come forward to make a contribution. Nick Gardner 09:57, 5 July 2008 (CDT)

Subject to the possibility of comments to respond to, I have nothing further to contribute to this article and I now submit it for approval. Nick Gardner 09:48, 28 July 2008 (CDT)

Some suggestions

Here are a couple of thoughts I had as I started reading through the text:

  • The intro seems a little brief. Maybe it could be fleshed out with some statements conveying a sense of the signficance of the social capital concept within the social sciences? Also, the last part of the sentence there -- "to facilitate their actions" -- seems a bit limiting. If I recall correctly, social capital can be mobilized towards ends other than coordination and efficiency; e.g. democratic and institutional stability.
  • In the "Definitions" section, there seems to be a lot of surname dropping, which assumes a lot of knowledge (of both the literature pertaining to social capital and scholarly communication conventions) on the part of readers. It might be a good idea to fill in the first names and perhaps include some identifying information about them (as is done, for example, in the second paragraph: "The sociologist James Coleman ...").

I'll probably be back with more tomorrow or Wednesday. Shamira Gelbman 02:58, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Shamira, Roger: I will think about expanding the introduction, but the definitions paragraph was the work of the original author, and its sources are unfamiliar to me (a mere economist). My preference would be to cut most of them out, but if you consider them to be helpful, perhaps you could tidy them up, Shamira? Or perhaps you could help me to do so, Roger? -Nick Gardner 05:31, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
I've added in the first names for recognition, but I'm opposed to leaving that section out completely. That would tilt the article too far in the direction of "mere economics." ;-) As Shamira notes, the concept is not just used in the context of economic production, but also as it relates to political stability, not to mention organizational performance and social development. It truly is an interdisciplinary topic.
I'm going to wait to see what Shamira comes up with for the introduction. Since she says "two or three days" I'm also going to move the approval date back a couple more days to give her a chance to work out what she thinks needs to be done.Roger Lohmann 14:06, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
"Definitions" seems to be a bit of a misnomer -- there's some defining going on in that section, but it seems to be at least as interested in establishing the geneaology of both the term and the underlying concept of social capital. In addition to perhaps renaming it, it might also help to restructure it, moving from the term/concept's origins (including both the Hanifan usage and the last paragraph's references to Madison etc.) to the more contemporary definitions. I think it would also be useful to have some discussion of where all those definitions are coming from (at least, which disciplines) and how they relate to each other. Shamira Gelbman 14:29, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

The contribution of Elinor Ostrom

It occurs to me that the work of Elinor Ostrom might deserve a reference in this article. I had not come across it when I drafted the economics paragraph and I only know of it now because of her Nobel Prize award[1]. Her work on iterated games might be thought relevant [2], although an alternative would be its inclusion in the - at present, underdeveloped - article on Game theory and a cross-reference to that article in this. I should in either case need time to track down and read some more of her work. Nick Gardner 07:14, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

I would agree we need an article (perhaps several) on her work, but I'm not sure this is the place for more than a mention. In (I think it was) Governing the Commons, she bases her discussion of fisheries, pastures and other common resource pools on parallels she draws between Mancur Olson, Garrett Hardin's "tragedy of the commons" and The Prisoner's Dilemma game. Resource pools (common or not) may be another expression for capital, which makes for a possible connection, but I'm not aware of any explicit use by her of "social capital," per se in this context. Roger Lohmann 14:15, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
I just started a new entry on Elinor Ostrom. Shamira Gelbman 14:36, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Great! Roger Lohmann 15:01, 20 October 2009 (UTC) And I added a crude bibliography, harvested from the first 200 entries of a Google Scholar search. (I hope I got all the duplicates out.) That lot include seven mentions of "social capital" in titles of publications between 1994 and 2007. What should that mean for inclusion here? (We're verging on original research, I suspect, since I'm haven't seen any journal articles with titles like "Elinor Ostrom's contributions to social capital, and the one book I'm aware of reviewing her (and Vincent's) work doesn't have any index entries for social capital." Roger Lohmann 12:48, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

If you are moving approval anyway...

The lead sentence of "objections and qualifications"

The consensus in favor of any of the approaches to social capital is not universal.

needs, I think, a bit of wordsmithing -- "There is no single consensus approach", perhaps? Howard C. Berkowitz 14:17, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Okay. Gotcha. That makes sense. Roger Lohmann 14:32, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Move Definitions?

Since most of the discussion in the current Definitions section deals with sociological approaches, and there is already a minimal and fairly generic definition in the introduction, would it make sense to relocate the entire present "Definitions" section to the "Sociological Implications" section further down the page?

Roger Lohmann 14:32, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
I don't think so -- defining the concept seems to be a very different discussion than explaining its implications. That said, I think the definitions section could be structured more effectively (see above), and maybe expanded a bit to incorporate more from other disciplines. More generally, I think it would pay to really play up the interdisciplinarity of "social capital" throughout the article. Shamira Gelbman 14:41, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, I moved it before I saw your note. (This gets confusing!) I took out the word definition and renamed the header to Social and Political Implications. The point is to differentiate Nick's largely economic handling from the multi-disciplinary (political and social?) usages. I like the direction you suggest for restructuring the section toward explaining its implications and focusing on the interdisciplinarity but I think that can work in this location; I'd recommend you try the modifications you mentioned and let's see how it reads. I'm done for now. Roger Lohmann 15:08, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Trying to put myself in the shoes of a reader coming at the article with fresh eyes and not a lot of background knowledge, I think the definitions section should go back to where it was. It can be disconcerting to jump straight into a phenomenon's components without first establishing what that phenomenon is and how it came about. Put differently, I think there's something to be said for moving sequentially from definition (i.e. defining the whole) --> components (breaking the whole down into parts) --> implications. On that note, measurement might belong before implications as well. Shamira Gelbman 16:38, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Okay, I'm not sure I agree, but its back. (I left measurement where it is until it's clear what you can do with this section.) Roger Lohmann 17:31, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


I am specialized in imaging, so I may be biased, but wouldn't it be possible to capture the essence (or at least some important aspects) of Social capital in a figure? I am primarily thinking of interdependences with other social or economic variables, but there would certainly be other options. I do read quite a bit outside my fields of expertise, but if there is no visual guidance as to the essential points (in my field, that's almost always the figures), I rarely embark on a piece of text, especially in unfamiliar waters where they tend to be hard to digest anyway. Having a good illustration may well lure people in — here and elsewhere. --Daniel Mietchen 15:12, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Some kind of flow chart, perhaps? Roger Lohmann 17:32, 20 October 2009 (UTC)
Yes, that would be a possibility. --Daniel Mietchen 18:39, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Just good thoughts

I have no special expertise on the topic, although some special cases may exist in counterinsurgency theory. Nevertheless, the collaboration is great to see.

It's obviously in a content elucidation phase, but I'd be happy to do some flow edits when the authors would think it useful. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:49, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

Citation Style

We've got an odd mixture of APA-style reference-list footnote citations (though APA doesn't really do footnotes) and something resembling Chicago Manual on the main page and a lot of idiosyncratic stuff on the bibliography subpage. Any objections to making all the footnotes Chicago style and the bibliography list all APA? Shamira Gelbman 19:01, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

No objection from me! Go for it! (All of CZ is a citation style mix, but it would be good to be consistent within articles. Roger Lohmann 12:50, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

New Wrinkle re: Definitions

Turns out Hanifan wasn't first to use the term after all; In the Political Theory article I listed on the bibliography subpage (freely accessible to all here (pdf)), the earliest usage is traced back at least to John Dewey in 1900 and perhaps to Karl Marx in 1867 ("gesellschaftliche Kapital") and other political economists during the late 19th century. Shamira Gelbman 22:47, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

It certainly appears in Volume II (1885). --Daniel Mietchen 23:51, 21 October 2009 (UTC)
These are interesting...And well worth noting. In that case, I would think the text should indicate that 1) Putnam brought the Hanifan connection to light as part of the general modern revival of the concept; 2) Hanifan's 1920 book involves more than a mention (and a definition). There is a full chapter on the topic, as I recall; and 3) It appears from what you indicate that Dewey and Marx are simply mentions. Perhaps all of these should be combined with Nick's mentions further down of Alfred Marshall and J.S. Mill? Roger Lohmann 01:40, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Related topics

I've done some rethinking, and now renaming of models of the stability of states‎, apropos of the problems of states or regions that, among other things, lack social capital. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:44, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

More on Ostrom and Social Capital

The bibliography I posted in the new [Elinor Ostrom] article includes seven references with social capital in the title. I've posted them in the bibliography of this article.

I haven't read any of them and don't have time to, but if someone is interested, these look like the basis for an addition to the mention of Ostrom in this entry. Roger Lohmann 01:40, 23 October 2009 (UTC)


There haven't been any edits on this article for more than two weeks. Is everyone satisfied now? Should we try this one for approval again?

Roger Lohmann 02:12, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
I should be content Nick Gardner 14:30, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
I am more on the user side here but really would appreciate some sort of illustration of the key aspects, e.g. relation to other kinds of capital, or how social capital interacts with other aspects of society. --Daniel Mietchen 14:40, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
You have prompted me to read it again, Daniel, and on reflection I think you have a point. I fear that many educated laymen would find the opening paragraph dauntingly academic. As an alternative to deleting or delaying that paragraph, I suggest the insertion above it of a brief paragraph that explains the concept in plain non-technical language without academic attributions. Any volunteers? Nick Gardner 16:29, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Kilcullen's Three Pillars, not containing explicit social capital — but could it?
For me, this is a "high impact" article. While I haven't seen much use of the term social capital in the theoretical literature on insurgency#Political rhetoric, myths and models, weak and failed states, I see it as fitting very well. See, for example, the annual Failed State Index produced by a joint project between Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace, which rates on indices including:[1]
  • Demographic pressures
  • Refugees and internally displaced persons
  • Group grievances
  • Human flight
  • Unequal development
  • Economic decline
  • Delegitimization of the state
  • Public services
  • Human rights
  • Security apparatus
  • Factionalized Elites
  • Foreign interventions
Let me offer a few standard models and see if there's a way to modify them to include social capital. Clearly, this would be original synthesis.
If you read through some of the material in Iraq War, insurgency and especially Iraq War, Surge, you may agree that some of the more successful efforts in stabilization (see also peace operations) built a sense of social capital (or some equivalent) in ethnically fragmented societies. After the ratification of one document, one local leader said "for the first time in my life, I fell like an Iraqi." It wasn't meant nationalistically, but as an idea that Islamic sectarian conflict was being overcome. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:31, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Good idea! Nick Gardner 06:17, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
I appreciate your re-reading, Nick, but instead of another paragraph, I would prefer a figure or diagram of the kind Howard just proposed. A few examples from a brief Google search that go into this direction are here, here and here but I suppose some textbooks on the subjects have better ones (don't have anything like this at hand right now). --Daniel Mietchen 21:31, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
I would prefer to leave the article as it is. Nick Gardner 06:17, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
Howard's reference to failed states is a reminder that the subject has a political dimension that has been overlooked. I suggest withholding approval until that omission has been repaired (as well as the insertion of a reader-friendly opening paragraph that meets Daniel's points). If nobody else tackles this, I may return to the subject and attempt some drafting - after I have attended to some unfinished CZ business elsewhere. Nick Gardner 11:13, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

(undent) If I'm not overcomplicating, I'd be delighted to have some of the people here look at the articles I've mentioned; insurgency is much more mature than failed state and weak state. There is an article, Transnational spillover from weak and failed states, which this discussion is making me think about: could many of the undesirable effects mentioned there be mirrored in situations with lack of social capital in urban areas?

Indeed, is there a inadequate-social-capitalization spectrum from urban renewal all the way to geopolitics? Can we put these various articles in that context? I don't know; if you will, a counterinsurgent is a social engineer rather than a social scientist. Do note, however, that military leaders are increasingly getting social scientist advisers, who are much more useful than in many early applications -- I worked for the Army-sponsored Center for Research in Social Systems and Human Resources Research Organization in the Vietnam period; some of the work was excellent and some was ludicrous. There are people who are thought military first and social scientist second, such as David Kilcullen, where Emma Sky is social scientist first. It is not without notice that some of the more successful U.S. generals, in counterinsurgency, have doctorates usually in international relations or history, but sometimes a social science. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:20, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

Political implications

I have added a new paragraph headed "Political implications" with the intention of drawing upon the collection of papers on the subject listed by the Social Capital Gateway[3]. I think it may also be useful to create a glossary on the Related articles subpage, drawing on material in the politics article. I will await comments and the possibility of a contribution from a politics author before going further. Nick Gardner 12:02, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

Failing any response to the above, I have done some drafting myself - but I am not entirely satisfied with it, so I should still welcome some help.Nick Gardner 17:11, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

How could I be of help in the insurgency and failed state areas? --Howard C. Berkowitz 18:54, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the prompt, I agree that there should be evidence on that topic. I have ordered "Why States Fail: Causes and Consequences" in the hope that it will provide some authoritative evidence on the subject. Can you recommend any other aources? Nick Gardner 06:51, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
There are several in failed state and insurgency, not stated as "social capital" but clearly paralleling its ideas. An introduction to the Failed State Index (, is a good starting point, although you should read the Index itself, which is downloadable as a PDF. Eizenstat and Kilcullen have much to say, and there actually is an indirect discussion in Iraq War, Surge on experience in building -- and also buying -- local institutions. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:01, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
I could not find the PDF article to which you refer, and, although the other material is authoritative, it did not lead me to the empirical evidence that I am looking for. However, the "Why States Fail: Causes and Consequences" book has arrived and seems to contain useful references to survey evidence (it is based on the Harvard University Failed States Project, but was published by the Princeton UP in 1964). I plan to spend a few days digesting it, but I have seen enough by skimming through it to suggest to me that it will be mainly useful as providing additional material for the failed state article. Watch this space! Nick Gardner 15:46, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
Pure lower-case editorial: I was trying to get the national/regional examples to follow the general discussion. The last few paragraphs, which you separated by spaces. Perhaps the section should be organized into Examples, with the regions below it, and then General Observations?
By empirical evidence, do you mean specific linkage of the idea of social capital? I did request the George Mason/CIA/SAIC report. --Howard C. Berkowitz 11:26, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
I have incorporated your contributions in a slight rearrangement of the text that I hope you find acceptable. Do you intend to add citations?Nick Gardner 12:09, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
That looks good, at least without coffee. As far as citation, there's a stylistic question here: almost all of my contributions are wikilinked to other articles, which do have the bibliographic information. In some of the cases, it would be a simple matter of copying the citation from the linked article. In other cases, however, the article has many citations that support the summary point made here. At what point is it best to keep the citations in the linked article? I have no immediate answer. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:27, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

The balance of the article

The paragraph on political implications has grown to the extent that it tends to dominate. However, I am inclined to think that this is justified by the importance of that aspect, and by the consideration that attempts to tackle the failed states problem are testing the usefulness of the concept of social capital in a new and revealing ways. Rather than abbreviating this paragraph, I should prefer to see a strengthening of some of the others.Nick Gardner 12:08, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

Let me avoid putting in more, but encouraging others to collaborate with failed state (weak state is a lemma), and perhaps some of the insurgency article material on theories of insurgency.
There are a great many things to think about as far as related articles. I started to put in Islamic sectarian conflict, and hesitated. In pre-2003 Iraq, Shi'a and Sunni, in mixed neighborhoods, often lived together quite compatibly. After the insurgency built, there certainly was deliberate instigation of sectarian hostility, but some may have been spontaneous. In either case, this is arguably a breakdown of social capital. In Tito's Yugoslavia, again there were mixed neighborhoods that appeared to lose the social capital, perhaps from deliberate ethnic cleansing, perhaps from other factors. The point is made about of the shifts in Hutu-Tutsi relations in Rwanda (and, less known, in neighboring countries).
I'm also thinking of urban isolation in the U.S. In what had been considered a reasonably friendly residential area in New York City, Kitty Genovese was slowly killed, in the street, over a period exceeding an hour. As I remember, at least 50 people were aware of it but did not intervene, even to the extent of an anonymous call to the police.
Ideas? --Howard C. Berkowitz 16:33, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
  1. The Failed States Index 2009