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Heiner Meulemann Institut für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Universität zu Köln. Institut für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie Greinstraße 2, D50939 Köln Tel. 0221 - 470 5658, Fax 0221 - 470 5169 e-mail: [email protected] Perspectives on Social Capital

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heiner meulemann institut f r soziologie und sozialpsychologie universit t zu k ln
Heiner MeulemannInstitut für Soziologie und SozialpsychologieUniversität zu Köln

Institut für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie

Greinstraße2, D50939 KölnTel. 0221 - 470 5658, Fax 0221 - 470 5169e-mail: [email protected]

Perspectives on SocialCapital

Definition, questions and some results from the European Social Survey

Lecture at the University of Limerick, Ireland, January 25, 2013

three topics
Three topics

1 Howissocialcapital (SC) bestdefined?


2 Whichquestions on SC shouldbereserarchedfirst? Andwhichhave? First priority: Transfer hypothesis

3 Exampleoftransferhypothesis

- European social survey

- Economic sphere of labour relations

1 1 criteria
1.1 Criteria
  • Putnam: “refers to features of social organization, such as trust, norms and networks”
  • Combines reference to social process – “organization” – with enumeration – “such as”.
  • I will analyze what is “social” of “features of organization” in order to understand the enumeration
features of social organization
„Features of social organization“

= collective good of organizations. Organizations can be distinguished by their SC – just as by constitution, function, size. Grammatical singular “organization” accidental.

Yet: singular meaningful: “organization” = process sustained by persons. Members of a group interact, “organize themselves”, so that collective products result

Question: what “collective goods” or products?

three collective goods resulting from interaction of persons
Three collective goods, resulting from interaction of persons

(1) productivity of a network: from flow of exchanges between persons with positions and intentions

(2) climate of trust: sufficient number of people reciprocate benevolent actions; if number goes down, trust risky, vicious circle: climate of distrust

(3) validity of norm: sufficient number follow norm and sanction violations; if number goes down, vicious circle of deviance and tolerance, norm breaks down

In each case: “collective good” from interaction of members. “Features of organization” established bottom up

Therefore, genus proximum of definition not organizations, but persons.

New definition 1: SC = any property of a group member, which contributes to group outputs.

problem of new definition 1 too broad social lost
Problem ofnewdefinition 1: toobroad, „social“ lost

Contribution of persons also from human or cultural capital

Therefore restricton: only outputs from membership in group.

In pursuing common interest, members form social relations, interactions more densely knit amongst members than with non-members.

Somewhat narrower definition 2: SC = sum of social relations a person holds in groups

problem of new definition 2 still too broad includes intimate relationships
Problem ofnewdefinition 2: still toobroad, includesintimaterelationships

Intimate = sexual and generational relations, rest on biology; everybody can, and most will, enter into them. Practiced in “private living arrangements”.

“Private” = “particularistic” (Parsons): person essential for the relation

many mothers, but only my mother is “my” mother

SC consists of “universalistic” relations in “public” realms, persists with interchangeable persons

New and final definition 3: SC = sum of social relations a person holds in groups beyond intimate living arrangements

uses of sc in social contexts
Uses of SC in social contexts

SC does not “capitalize” by itself. In order to not decay, it must be utilized. What can actors gain from SC?

Due to its relational nature, SC more useful when more relations in group.

Therefore, distinction of contexts of use:

1 2 relational capital and system capital concept and measurement
1.2 Relational capital and system capital: Concept and measurement

“Relational SC” of persons - “system SC” of group

System SC: conceived of independently of persons as sum of relations.

Person may aim to manipulate and to improve relational SC

System SC of group exists independently of members

Emerging quality in two ways

  • network of relations knitted between members in pursuance of group goal = social structure of the group.
  • Some relations bundled in civic associations. System SC = sum of civic associations acting within group

Measured in surveys by aggregation

Two problems:

measurement problem 1 interdependency solitary decisions
Measurement problem 1: interdependency, solitary decisions

In social reality interdependency: some are eager to and some detest emulating other people.

Measurement should follow up interdependency until SC is established

Yet surveys

  • neglect interdependency and time
  • Instead: means within groups at single time point

Justification: Practical short-cut?

Yes, but also substantive reasons: some decisions made without looking at others (join a tennis club).

If this holds: measure of system SC as group mean of relational SC also theoretically justified

measurement problem 2 circularity random sampling
Measurement problem 2: circularity, random sampling

Danger of circularity: system SC = relational SC. Yet:

Sum of relations of all persons does not necessarily amount to system SC of group.

Example 1: Two persons related = only one relation, counting two relations not correct. However, random samplings: improbable that two persons with relation are drawn. Total as system SC feasible

Example 2: Two persons join same association = one, not two association. Again, random sampling. Furthermore: multiple memberships reflect size of association. Again, total as system SC feasible

summary so far
Summary so far

SC consists of relations of persons, basically relational

Relations add up within a group to system SC:

(a) network, social structure

(b) civic associations

Although system SC conceived of as independent of relational SC, measurement of system SC through mean of relational SC can be justified. Mean of relational SC = indicator of system SC.

Question: Which properties of system SC fruitful for group member in pursuance of goals?

1 3 three properties of system sc
1.3. Three Properties of System SC

From (1) density of social relations

to (2) social trust and

(3) validity of norms

  • fundamental, (2) and (3) derived

This to be shown in following

1 density of social relations
(1) Density of social relations

Network of high mean personal relationships eases moves, each partner has more relations. That is: value of relational SC increases with system SC

Quantity of relations increases the number of ways to attain goals

Quality of relations affects probability of attainment on these ways. In particular:

“Niceness” eases goal attainment. Starts interactions with a cooperative move, and end up better than people starting with a non-cooperative move (Axelrod)

“Nice” relations result from two “nice” tendencies of partners

  • to trust each other, > 2nd property
  • to endorse norms of cooperation, > 3rd property
2 climate of trust
(2) Climate of trust

Trust = overrides suspicion that partner will not give back. More trusting, longer chain of reciprocation, stronger climate of trust

Trust learned in “particularistic” relations, reinforced reciprocally in “universalistic” interactions

I trust in others who have repeatedly not disappointed me, and others trust in me if I have repeatedly not disappointed them.

My trust in others indicates the trust others have in me. Trust not personal attitude alone, but indicator of trustful relations in group.

If trust = indicator of “niceness” of relations,

climate of trust = system SC useful for persons

3 validity of norms of cooperation
(3) Validity of norms of cooperation

Norms of cooperation (proscription “not to”), justified by the norm of reciprocity alone.

Norms of institutions (e.g. marital fidelity), additionally justified by values the person beliefs in (“family” or “life”)

Endorsement of norms of cooperation, more or less strongly reciprocated:

  • Behavior: If enough follow norms of cooperation and enough sanction violations, norm becomes valid.
  • Attitude: If enough endorse norm, it becomes valid

Consequently, the more norm held among interaction partners, the more one can uphold norm oneself.

Endorsement of norms = indicator of “nice” relations

Validity of norms of cooperation = system SC

in sum triad of system sc but only relations form relational sc
In sum: Triad of systemSC, but only „relations“ form relational SC

Distinction between density and “niceness” of social relations justifies to classify system SC into Putnam’s triad: “networks, trust, and norms” (order changed!).


- density of relations only justified directly as a system SC

- further arguments required to classify climate of trust and validity of norms of cooperation as system SC: indicators for “niceness” of social relations, not measured directly with reference to relations, but indirectly as means of attitudes.

Test: switch back from system SC to relational SC:

- Just as density of relations = system SC, so relations of person = “relational” capital.

- However, while climate of trust and validity of norms = system SC, trust or norm endorsement not = SC of person.

capital two qualities
“Capital” two qualities
  • every capital = means for ends to be attained in purposive action
  • every capital “capitalizes” = pays off in same kind

These twoqualities = dimensionstoclassifyresearchquestions

quality 1 means to ends in purposive action
Quality 1: means to ends in purposive action

Money = exchange against goods and services.

Prestige= used to attain goods and services from others.

SC = channels to goods and services.

Each: means to “success”. Yet difference:

Money buys everything of its worth. “Success” no problem.

Prestige, SC: be worked upon to become a means. “Success” problem.

Thus: If SC contributes to success, consequences should before causes. If not, reduced importance of causes.

SC research agenda: 1 consequences - 2 causes

Money “success” for everyone who holds it, first: how got it; second: what done with it.

Money research agenda: 1 causes - 2 consequences

quality 2 capitalization
Quality 2: capitalization

Money = interest, again money

Prestige of education = prestige of occupation

SC = pay off again in social relations

- RelationalSC the more useful, the more embedded in network of relations, the more system SC.

A’s relation to B

= limited value if B knows nobody,

= highly valuable if B at core of network.

  • Due to relational nature of SC, capitalization depends on context

Research priority: effects of system SC

1 on a means end chain of some action (“slopes”)

2 on ends themselves (“intercepts”)

agenda followed by research up to now yes but only implicitly
Agenda followedbyresearchuptonow? Yes, but onlyimplicitly

Research up to now:

- not SC per se or causes,

- but consequences for social integration, democracy

At heart of SC research: Transfer hypothesis

  • Proverbially: “Good government = by-product of singing groups and soccer clubs” (Putnam)
  • Abstractly: citizens’ involvement grants social integration.

Implicit: priority of

- consequences over causes

  • effects over outputs

But apart from that, not clear. .

Meaning specified: using right half of figure 1.

transfer hypothesis specified
Transfer hypothesis, specified

Country level correlation

Corresponding person level effect:

= more citizens in associations, more articulation of interests in democratic decision making

= Transfer from civic life to organized social life.

= Right part of figure 1: SC as a means > action success

Two Problems:

(1) Articulation of interests not yet social integration. Further causal link from successes of persons to integration of groups, beyond figure 1 to the right.

(2) Micro relation embedded in macro conditions, not specified. Therefore: both effects of figure 1

transfer hypothesis summarized
Transfer hypothesis, summarized

Comprises right half of figure 1 as a whole and expands it to the right. To be tested, its four elements must be specified

(1) Macro relation. To which added

Two top down elements:

(2) Effect hypothesis, capitalization of system SC

(3) Mean hypothesis, output of system SC.

A new bottom up element:

(4) From action success to social integration

3 1 question and research design
3.1 Question and research design

Transfer of transfer hypothesis


The more someone is involved in private associations, the more..

- able to assert political interests

To labor relationssystem

- attain empowerment at the workplace

= range of discretion in order to make decisions about work

controls to examine transfer hypothesis of labor relations
Controls to examine transfer hypothesis of labor relations

On the level of persons

  • Human capital, union membership, workplace

On the level of countries

- Institutions and opportunity structures of labour relations system

research design influences on empowerment
Research Design: Influences on empowerment

5 Collective: work placesector, size of firm


4 Collective: strategyunion membership,





Empowerment:discretion at work

1 Civic Involvementsocial capital


2 Human Capital in FirmPeople supervised,

Prestige of occupation







3 Human Capital, personpolitical efficacy, education,

Exit options

Labour relations system:

Favourable to unions

dependent variable index of inventory and a question
Dependent Variable: Index ofInventoryand a Question

Inventory: “Please say how much the management at your work allows you:

- to be FLEXIBLE in your working hours,

- to DECIDE how your own daily work is organised,

- to influence your work ENVIRONMENT,

- to influence decisions about the general DIRECTION of your work,

- to CHANGE your work tasks if you wish to?”

“0 I have no influence” - “10 I have complete control”

Single question: “To what extent can you ORGANIZE your own work, to a large extent (4), to some extent (3), very little (2) or not at all (1)?” – reversed for analysis

Sample: ESS 2002, employedpopulation

figure 1 mean empowerment one standard deviation above and below means
Figure 1. Mean empowerment, one standard deviation above and below means

Highest N: 6.69

Lowest PL: 2.49

empowerment at the work place
Empowermentatthe Work Place

High: Scandinavian countries, NL

> socialdemocraticregime

Medium: AU, B, EI, I, LUX

> traditional-corporatistregime

Low: E, GR, PT, D-E, D-W

> traditional-corporatistregime

3 2 hypotheses and measurements level of persons
3.2 Hypotheses and measurements: Level of persons

(1) Civic Involvement: +

(2) Human capital: Person: +

Political efficacy, education, exit options

(3) Human capital: Firm specific: +

People supervised, prestige of occupation

(4) Union membership: +

(5) Work Place

Size, sector of firm

(6) Control variables: Age and Gender

1 civic involvement in private organizations
(1) Civic Involvementin private organizations

“For each of these voluntary associations, tell me whether any of these things apply to you now or in the last 12 months

- A member of such an organization

- Participated in an activity arranged by such an organization

- Donated money to such an organization

- Done voluntary (unpaid) work for such an organization.”

Membership + participation = belonging

Donation of money + voluntary = engagement

In 5 private associations:

  • sports clubs
  • consumer associations
  • scientific/educational/teachers’ associations
  • social clubs
  • cultural associations
3 exit options
(3) Exit options

- Index of (1) “How difficult or easy would it be for you to get a similar or better job with another employer?” and (2) “... and to start your own business?”, scale 0 to 10: +

- partner employed: +

3 3 hypotheses and measurements level of countries
3.3 Hypotheses and measurements: Level of countries

Countries characterized by labor rule system LRS, more or less favorable to workers

= rule set and power structure, which exonerate workers from personal endeavor to attain empowerment; if unions successful = Workers less dependent on their own initiative

two dimensions of lrs
TwoDimensionsof LRS


- Relations between collectivities or individuals

  • Regulation through normative social order or factual opportunity structure

Four-Fold Table

Collective relations

  • Normatively: range covered by bargaining process
  • Factually: a high degree of organization and public support

Individual relations

  • normatively: favor employment and restrict dismissal
  • Factually: a labor market situation with high employment and many secure work contracts

Indicators in following table

mean hypothesis
Mean hypothesis

Union efficiency hypothesis:

The more collective or individual labor relations of a country favor normatively, or strengthen factually, the unions,

the higher mean empowerment of employees

effect hypothesis
Effect hypothesis

Substitution hypothesis:

The more the labor relation system of a country favors unions, the less important individual strategies become for the worker in order to attain empowerment.

Negative cross-level interaction effect between LRS favorable to unions and individual endeavor to attain empowerment, in particular: human capital

3 4 results
3.4 Results

Mean Union membership:

  • .359 meanof 19 countries
  • Range from.146 Portugal

to.844 Denmark

quantity of intercept and slope effects

Mean:country 25 percentage points above grand mean > predicted intercept of 5.472 + 0.019*25=5.947, half a point on 11 point scale of empowerment.

Slope: country 25 percentage points above mean > predicted slope for

  • people sv.: .456 + (-.00298*25) = .382
  • exit option: .216 + (-.00174*25) = .172.
3 5 conclusion hypotheses confirmed
3.5 Conclusion:Hypotheses confirmed?

Transfer hypothesis: confirmed. Effects stronger than many effects of more immediate personal factors

- Belonging to and engagement in private associations stronger than belonging to trade unions. Articulation of one’s interest in private realm more easily transformed into empowerment at the workplace than in public realm.

- More distant = more effective route. Longer distances needed to acquire general capacities of self-assertion, while focusing on the very arena of interest narrows down opportunities to learn general capacities. Longer distances = more challenges to generalize.