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Social Capital in Europe

A Comparative Regional Analysis Emanuele Ferragina, Assistant Professor, OSC, Sciences Po, France
The book investigates the determinants of social capital across 85 European regions capturing the renewed interest among social capital theorists for the importance of active secondary groups in supporting the correct functioning of society and its democratic institutions. Robert Putnam merged quantitative and historical analyses, suggesting that the lack of social capital in the south of Italy was mainly due to a peculiar historical development rather than being the product of a mix of structural socio-economic factors, a conclusion that has been the subject of fierce criticism and debate.
Extent: 232 pp
Hardback Price: $120.00 Web: $108.00
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978 1 78100 021 2
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  • Politics and Public Policy
  • European Politics and Policy
  • Social Policy and Sociology
  • Comparative Social Policy
  • Sociology and Sociological Theory
  • Urban and Regional Studies
  • Regional Studies
The book investigates the determinants of social capital across 85 European regions capturing the renewed interest among social capital theorists for the importance of active secondary groups in supporting the correct functioning of society and its democratic institutions. Robert Putnam merged quantitative and historical analyses, suggesting that the lack of social capital in the south of Italy was mainly due to a peculiar historical development rather than being the product of a mix of structural socio-economic factors, a conclusion that has been the subject of fierce criticism and debate.

Emanuele Ferragina analyses the influence of income inequality, economic development, labour market participation and national divergence. By complementing these socio-economic explanations with a comparative historic-institutional analysis between two deviant cases (Wallonia and the south of Italy) and two regular cases (Flanders and the north east of Italy), the findings suggest that income inequality, labour market participation and national divergence are important factors in explaining the lack of social capital. Furthermore, the traditional historical determinism is refuted with the formulation of the sleeping social capital theory.

Sociologists, political scientists, economic historians and scholars interested in comparative methods and European politics and policy will find this informative book invaluable.
‘This book is a must for anyone interested in the concept of social capital.’
– Martin Seeleib-Kaiser, University of Oxford, UK

‘The quantitative survey of social capital at the regional level is an original contribution that opens a fresh geographic perspective on the literature in this field. Moving beyond the statistical representation of regional patterns the author’s use of case studies illuminates how local culture and historical contexts influence the manifestations of social capital. This volume breaks new ground challenging conventional analysis to advance our understanding of social capital.’
– Neil Gilbert, University of California, Berkeley, US

‘Social Capital in Europe dismantles Robert Putnam’s theoretical model by critically discussing the most prominent international literature in the field and by analyzing a large bulk of empirical and historical evidence. According to Putnam, the lack of social capital in the South of Italy dates back to medieval history. His “historical determinism”, that seems to erase every influence of contemporary social phenomena, is largely contradicted by Ferragina.’
– Piero Bevilacqua, University of Rome, Italy

‘The concept of social capital has enjoyed increasing vogue among social scientists. Historians have been mobilized to support the importance of this concept in various ways, and in turn they have increasingly relied on it. The historian will find in this book both a definitive guide to the theoretical debate behind this controversial concept and an impressive demonstration of how it can be used to produce comparative historical analysis.’
– Agostino Inguscio, Yale University, US
Contents: Preface Part I: The Methodological Toolbox 1. Introduction 2. Measuring Social Capital 3. Why We Need a Regional Analysis Part II: The Socio-Economic Analysis 4. Social Capital in European Regions 5. The Determinants of Social Capital 6. Explaining Social Capital Variation Across Europe Part III: The Divergent Cases 7. Why Does Social Capital ‘Sleep’? 8. Fraternal Twins: Institutional Evolution and Social Capital 9. Conclusion Bibliography Index