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Social capital, voluntary associations and collective action: Which aspects of social capital have the greatest 'civic' payoff?

Publication Abstract

Welzel, Christian , Ronald F. Inglehart, and Franziska Deutsch . 2005. "Social capital, voluntary associations and collective action: Which aspects of social capital have the greatest 'civic' payoff?" Journal of Civil Society, 1(2): 121-146.

Despite a great variety of theoretical approaches, empirical analyses of social capital are surprisingly similar. Virtually all of them treat membership in voluntary associations as the chief indicator of community involvement while neglecting another form of community involvement: participation in elite-challenging actions. Likewise, authors readily attribute manifold civic benefits to associational life, while hesitating to attribute such benefits to elite-challenging activity. We question these views on two grounds. Firstly, we argue that elite-challenging action reflects social capital, even though this is a specific form of it: an emancipative form typical of self-assertive publics. Secondly, we use data from the Value Surveys to demonstrate that elite-challenging action is linked with greater civic benefits, at both the individual and societal level, than is membership in voluntary associations. This finding confirms the concept of human development, which suggests that emancipative forms of social capital are more civic in their consequences than others. Following this concept, we show that mass self-expression values nurture emancipative social capital, in motivating elite-challenging action. Finally, we locate self-expression values and elite-challenging actions in a theory of emancipative social capital.

DOI:10.1080/17448680500337475 (Full Text)

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