Rescuing Social Capital from Social Democracy

60 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2008

See all articles by John Meadowcroft

John Meadowcroft

King's College London

Mark Pennington

University of London - Department of Political Economy


Many social democrats believe that the failure of past government interventions in social and economic life can be explained by the absence of social capital, and that government must intervene to create that social capital. This argument is comprehensively undermined in this Hobart Paper. The authors argue that government attempts to undertake 'cultural planning' to create social capital are subject to exactly the same problems that led economic and industrial planning to fail. In order for democratic systems to work, they must be limited to coordinating certain core political functions. Markets will generate attributes such as trust and non-discrimination, which are necessary to oil the wheels of both commercial and political society.

This monograph is essential reading for all economists, sociologists, political scientists and anthropologists whose work brings them into contact with the social capital literature.

Keywords: social capital, social democracy, Robert Putnam, civil society, market economy, cultural planning

JEL Classification: A13, A14, D60, D64, H1, H11, H42, J71, Z1, Z10

Suggested Citation

Meadowcroft, John and Pennington, Mark, Rescuing Social Capital from Social Democracy. Institute of Economic Affairs Monographs, Hobart Paper, No. 161, 2007. Available at SSRN:

Richard Wellings (Contact Author)

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) ( email )

2 Lord North Street
London SW1P 3LB
United Kingdom

John Meadowcroft

King's College London ( email )

London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

Mark Pennington

University of London - Department of Political Economy ( email )

United Kingdom

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