Social Capital in West-Europe

Research question/goal: 

The project focuses on social capital and its implications for the institutions which sustain democracy and political stability in contemporary west Europe. By social capital is meant the voluntary formal and informal social, economic and political organisations, associations, and groups which mediate between individuals and primary groups, on the one hand, and the institutions of government and the state, on the other. The importance of social capital lies in its capacity to create a dense and complex network of civic involvement which engenders feelings of trust, compromise, and cooperation upon which rests the peaceful resolution of political conflicts, democratic legitimacy, and political stability. Some research suggests that social capital in the west is eroding with serious consequences for the institutions of democratic government and its legitimacy.In short, one part of the project will be a broad and inclusive stock-taking exercise organised around four main questions: What are the individual and social variables associated with the organisations, associations, and societies which comprise the social capital of modern west European society? To what extent does civic engagement in social capital generate individual democratic attitudes? Is there evidence of stability, decline or change in social capital? What is the impact of stability, decline or change on democratic institutions, governability, and legitimacy? The outcome of this work will be a book of essays. The other main purpose of the project will be to use the material collected for the book in order to identify the main empirical and theoretical gaps in research, and to identify strategic research questions and the methods and data necessary to answer them. The prupose is to test the ground for further work and project development.

Fact sheet

1996 to 1998