Kateřina Vráblíková, Jan W. van Deth
Conducive contexts: The impact of collective and individual social capital on democratic citizenship

Acta Politica: International Journal of Political Science, 2017: 52, issue 1, pp. 23 - 42
ISSN: 0001-6810 (print); 1741-1416 (online)

Social capital is considered to be crucial for democratic politics. Its benevolent consequences can be attributed to two substantively different modes of social capital. Understood as an individual property the impact of social capital will be mainly restricted to those who command these resources. A much less researched approach depicts social capital as a collective good; that is, as a property of distinct societies whose impact everybody will feel. The main question of this study is: How do these individual and collective modes of social capital influence democratic citizenship in Western democracies? Multi-level modeling is used to test the impact of the two distinct modes of social capital, as well as their interactions using survey data for 28 democracies extended with indicators for collective social capital. The analyses show that living in a country rich on social capital contributes to democratic citizenship beyond the positive effects of individual social capital. Moreover, especially environments richer on collective social capital activate citizens with high levels of individual social capital are more to be politically active than less equipped environments. Apparently, those who are already privileged in terms of individual social capital will profit most from a social capital rich environment.