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Jackman and Miller: Social capital and politics

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.

Jackman and Miller. 1998. Social capital and politics. Annual Review of Political Science 1: 75-93.

In Brief

"This review evaluates the most recent studies of social capital in political science and argues that they have strayed considerably from the original treatment of social capital, which casts it as endogenous. Recent treatments have recast social capital as a feature of political culture and thereby treat values as exogenous. These two approaches emanate from incompatible premises and have fundamentally different implications. Thus, efforts to combine the two approaches are rendered unproductive by inevitable inconsistencies of internal logic. Moreover, empirical tests of the exogenous social capital approach are deficient: They are selective in their use of data and employ ad hoc procedures at crucial junctures. We therefore urge a return to the treatment of social capital as endogenous."

The authors presnet a damning indictment of Putnam, Fukuyama, Inglehart, and others. Social capital is best viewed endogenously (a result of existing institutions, like in the "law merchant" article and others) rather than exogenously (as a product of political culture, as Putnam and Inglehart view it). Social capital is not so much a feature of culture (and thus exogenous and stable) so much as it is created by conditions and institutions (and thus endogenous). Putnam's studies and other studies in the political culture study of social capital are plagued by serious methodological flaws that Jackman and Miller outline carefully.

Jackman and Miller leave one question unanswered, however: what explains the variations in governmental performance in Italy's regions if they all had similar institutions? Perhaps they have an answer, but they could have strengthened their paper if they had sought to replace Putnam's explanation rather than just destroy it.


Research on similar subjects

Tags

Jackman, Robert (author)Miller, Ross (author)Political ScienceComparative PoliticsSocial CapitalRational ChoiceCulture

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