Sonja Zmerli
Presented paper: The Empirical Relevance of Bonding and Bridging Social Capital. An East-West German Comparison


The main focus of the presented paper is to investigate whether the concept of bonding and bridging social capital can be reasonably specified by categorizing voluntary associations according to their constitutive goods, i.e. purposes, and whether this conceptualization will also hold for empirical analysis in the realm of political participation. The empirical findings both for East and West Germany show that memberships of voluntary associations which are conducive either to bonding or bridging social capital indeed affect generalized trust, norms and some forms of political participation differently. By this means, underlying causal structures are revealed. In the future, we might be better able to answer systematically which associations account for which effects on different aspects of social capital and on political participation by applying this concept to empirical research. However, me must concede that the application of the presented concept does not always yield consistent East-West German results. Besides, empirical analyses reveal that norms, as another component of social capital, exert comparably deviating effects on generalized trust and on the inspected scopes of political action, thus stressing the need for differentiation, too. Moreover, an impressive linkage of political trust to some components of social capital can be disclosed.