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POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY POLITICAL CULTURE AND SOCIAL CAPITAL For a democracy to work well is it more important that citizens share a strong civic culture or that they have high levels of social capital?
How Civic is the Civic Culture? - Political Studies 59: Fieldhouse & Liu
- There are four key areas of citizen orientation that may influence civic participation: trust in government institutions, moral motivations, neighbourhood social norms, and neighbourhood affect.1
- Neighbourhood affect and low levels of political trust encourage citizens to engage in civic behaviour. Morality and social norms do not affect participation rates.
- What is civic behaviour? It can include: Influencing institutions individually, collective civic action, citizen governance, community volunteerism.
- In this study moral motivation only had a noticeable impact on civic volunteerism. The neighbourhood affect had an impact across the whole range of civic actions; people who are concerned get involved. Individual-Level Evidence for the Causes and Consequences of Social Capital - AJPS 41: Brehm
- 'Social capital is the web of co-operative relationships between citizens'2; variation in social capital is accounted for by psychological engagement, resources, and sociological conditions.
- Social capital ideas help to explain why some communities are better than others at solving collective problems co-operatively.
- There is a reciprocal relationship between levels of civic engagement and interpersonal trust. A high level of trust encourages citizen to create and follow rules, because they believe others will do so also. Further, those with strong community ties were less likely to look to the State to fulfil their needs and were more able to resist creeping centralisation3.
- In their study, they found education and interpersonal trust to be the biggest drivers of civic engagement. Confidence, life satisfaction, and education were highly correlated to interpersonal trust. Confidence in government was most impacted by life satisfaction, and was undermined by civic participation and higher levels of income.
- There is a virtuous circle of civic engagement and positive disposition towards others. Social Capital in Britain - BJPS 29: P. Hall
- High levels of social capital have varied positive outcomes, including reducing crime rates, increasing economic growth, and facilitating effective participation in politics4.
- The propensity for British people to join some form of community organisation remains roughly the same today as it was in the 1950s. They are however, joining different kinds of organisations; traditional women's groups have experience significant decline; membership of environmental organisations has quadrupled.
- The voluntary and charitable sector remains robustly supported.
- Levels of social trust fell from c55% in 1959 to c45% in 1990, based on respondents'' asked whether they generally trust others. Hall calls this anomalous, given that other indicators of social capital have not fallen. Trust was declined through urbanisation, with the populous remaining 1 How Civic is Civic Culture? Political Studies 59: Fieldhouse & Liu 2 Individual-Level Evidence for the Causes and Consequences of Social Capital - AJPS 41: Brehm & Rahn 3 Individual-Level Evidence for the Causes and Consequences of Social Capital - AJPS 41: Brehm & Rahn 4 Social Capital in Britain - BJPS 29: P. Hall
unfamiliar with neighbours, more exposed to crime, and more individualistic. Rising divorce rates and high levels of structural unemployment have also undermined social trust.
- Socio-economic developments in industrialised nations have been thought to undermine social capital. These include the growth of the welfare state, suburbanisation, changes in family structure, and the participation of women in the workforce.
- Hall does not find that high levels of television watching have eroded social capital, as it has simply replaced analogous leisure activities.
- As a population becomes more educated, it is more likely to engage in community activities. Why do some analyses control for education?
- Between 1959 and 1990 the rate of community involvement by women more than doubled, and converged with that of men.
- The gap between the social capital of the working- and middle-classes has widened during the post-war years; this can be self-perpetuating as it is a political resource with which economic resources can be obtained.
- Putnam has claimed that levels of social capital in America are falling. Recent generations have abandoned the dense associational participation of previous generations and, in doing so, have weakened social trust and political involvement.
- Hall applies Putnam's idea of declining social capital to Britain, with the intention of identifying whether it is a cross national trend, and what the causal factors may then be.
* He notes that Britain is an important case in this sense, as it has long had one of the densest networks at civic engagement in the world.
Trevelyan describes the 19th century as "'the age of Trade Unions, Co-Operative and Benefit Societies, Leagues, Boards, Commissions, Committees for every conceivable purpose of philanthropy and culture'.
- Therefore, Hall argues that if all nations with significant social capital are now experiencing a decline, then Britain should be experiencing one as well. The social capital with which Hall is concerned, and finds relevant to his work, is based primarily on the degree to which people associate with each other regularly, in settings of relative equality; this is held to build up relations of trust and mutual reciprocity. This may therefore be created by either formal or informal patterns of social ability, and is reflected in the general level of trust which people have, and their commitment to voluntary community work.
- The core of the generic definition of social capital is the membership of voluntary associations, whether of recreational, social, or political or religious the rise of. The 2 key features which they should have, however, is that their members should be involved in at least some face-to-face interaction with other members, and that a member should be engaged in a common endeavour.
- Whilst Hall does find some decline in certain associations, such as the decline from 12.9 million trade union members in 1980, to 9.6 million members in 1991, he finds that average membership in general amongst voluntary organisations has, by and large, kept pace with population growth and the rising levels of educational achievement in the post-war period. Furthermore, he notes that his survey tracks only the membership of organisations that have been in existence for some time, potentially excluding emergent organisations.
- Saxon-Harrold and Knapp observed a 27% increase in the number of voluntary organisations active during the 1980s; this equates to the creation of 3 to 4000 such organisations per year.
- When surveyed respondents' levels of education are held constant, the basic inclination of the vast majority of the British populace to join associations remains roughly the same as it was in the 1950s.
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