Associations and Social Capital

  • Jan W. van Deth
  • Bob Edwards
  • Gabriel B˘adescu
  • Alisa Moldavanova
  • Michael Woolcock


Associations provide institutionalized opportunities for social exchange and the strengthening of pro-social attitudes and social skills. Social capital – such as trust, norms, and networks – is a by-product of associational involvement. In trustful relationships transaction costs are decreased for all participants because fewer resources are required for compliance. In this way, social capital provides an attractive solution to the collective-good dilemma. The causal relation between associational involvement and social capital is mainly explained by learning processes. Positive effects are especially expected from bridging social capital based on involvement in heterogeneous networks that reinforce tolerance, openness, and outer-directedness. Bonding social capital in homogenous networks strengthens feelings of exclusivity and inner-directedness. Increasingly, attention is drawn to feasible dark sides of and to modes of negative social capital.

Besides, the expectation that social capital will have pro-social functions implies an implicit ideological baggage that undermines its utility as an analytical concept.


Social Capital Civil Society Civic Engagement Social Trust Voluntary Association 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan W. van Deth
    • 1
  • Bob Edwards
    • 2
  • Gabriel B˘adescu
    • 3
  • Alisa Moldavanova
    • 4
  • Michael Woolcock
    • 5
  1. 1.The Netherlands
  2. 2.USA
  3. 3.Romania
  4. 4.Ukraine
  5. 5.Australia

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