1 Department of Economics and Business - Economics, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University3 GlobID -Globalization and Industry Dynamics, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University5 Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University6 Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
This paper explores whether the concept of social capital as popularized by Robert Putnam is a good social science concept. Taking Gerring’s work on concept evaluation as the starting point, the paper first presents a set of criteria for conceptual ‘goodness’ and discusses how social capital performs on these criteria. It is argued that social capital eventually may be a good concept if it can be shown empirically to be a unidimensional concept. An empirical section therefore explores the validity of the unidimensionality assumption and rejects it in four separate tests at both the individual and aggregate level. We conclude that even if social capital has been a remarkably productive idea, it is not a good concept as most popular conceptualizations define social capital as several distinct phenomena or as phenomena that already have been conceptualized under other labels.
Social Indicators Research, 2013, Vol 114, Issue 3, p. 1225-1242