The paper resumes the debate on social capital by proposing a way to conceptualize and operationalize the term at the rigorously micro level. It does not claim, however, that the importance of social capital does not extend beyond the individual sphere, and that its effects are not apparent also at levels of social aggregation above the micro-relational one. The treatment is organized as follows. Section 2 surveys the theories and approaches to social capital which relate analysis and use of the concept to the action of the subjects that are its beneficiaries and final users. Then described are the difficulties and controversies still unresolved in the international debate on social capital, interpreted as a resource for instrumental action by individual actors. The paper then proposes (section 3) a formalization which is able, I believe, to summarize and clarify these differences. Section 4 shifts the focus to the debate among Italian sociologists, who are more closely concerned with ‘macro’ aspects of social capital’s role in fostering local development and integration. Sections 5 moves from criticisms to arguments in favour of a micro-relational approach to social capital. It is argued that this approach has several important advantages. Firstly, it makes it possible to understand macro phenomena on the basis of analysis of the behaviours and choices of individual actors, taking a Weberian approach to the analysis of social phenomena. Secondly, it can be used to clarify how the embeddedness of these actions in social contexts, structures and relations may facilitate the pursuit of individual ends, thereby avoiding the indeterminacy typical of many approaches to the ‘social foundations’ of instrumentally or economically oriented action. Thirdly, it prevents the loss of conceptual and methodological precision consequent upon the excessively extensive generalization of the concept so frequently criticised in the literature. Finally, the analysis returns to the private good/public good question, this being one of the forms that the micro/macro controversy on social capital has assumed, especially in Italy.

Le fondamenta micro-relazionali del capitale sociale / Barbieri, Paolo. - In: RASSEGNA ITALIANA DI SOCIOLOGIA. - ISSN 0486-0349. - STAMPA. - 2005:2(2005), pp. 345-386.

Le fondamenta micro-relazionali del capitale sociale

Barbieri, Paolo
2005

Abstract

The paper resumes the debate on social capital by proposing a way to conceptualize and operationalize the term at the rigorously micro level. It does not claim, however, that the importance of social capital does not extend beyond the individual sphere, and that its effects are not apparent also at levels of social aggregation above the micro-relational one. The treatment is organized as follows. Section 2 surveys the theories and approaches to social capital which relate analysis and use of the concept to the action of the subjects that are its beneficiaries and final users. Then described are the difficulties and controversies still unresolved in the international debate on social capital, interpreted as a resource for instrumental action by individual actors. The paper then proposes (section 3) a formalization which is able, I believe, to summarize and clarify these differences. Section 4 shifts the focus to the debate among Italian sociologists, who are more closely concerned with ‘macro’ aspects of social capital’s role in fostering local development and integration. Sections 5 moves from criticisms to arguments in favour of a micro-relational approach to social capital. It is argued that this approach has several important advantages. Firstly, it makes it possible to understand macro phenomena on the basis of analysis of the behaviours and choices of individual actors, taking a Weberian approach to the analysis of social phenomena. Secondly, it can be used to clarify how the embeddedness of these actions in social contexts, structures and relations may facilitate the pursuit of individual ends, thereby avoiding the indeterminacy typical of many approaches to the ‘social foundations’ of instrumentally or economically oriented action. Thirdly, it prevents the loss of conceptual and methodological precision consequent upon the excessively extensive generalization of the concept so frequently criticised in the literature. Finally, the analysis returns to the private good/public good question, this being one of the forms that the micro/macro controversy on social capital has assumed, especially in Italy.
2
Barbieri, Paolo
Le fondamenta micro-relazionali del capitale sociale / Barbieri, Paolo. - In: RASSEGNA ITALIANA DI SOCIOLOGIA. - ISSN 0486-0349. - STAMPA. - 2005:2(2005), pp. 345-386.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11572/36663
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