Vindicating Social Capital: its Conceptual Convenience

René Millán


The article sustains that the main conceptual contribution of social capital (SC) emerges from the important role that plays in collective action dilemma. If we understand this role, we get two conceptual advantages: on the one hand, it´s possible to introduce additional arguments to overcome the apparent inconvenience of holding cooperative interactions as prisoner´s dilemma shows. On the other hand, facing up SC´s criticisms, is feasible to argue that cooperation is a neutral dimension and can lean toward a “dark side” (i.e. organized crime) or to collective benefits with no negatives externalities. At the same time, there are some institutional contexts and some SC´s features that promote an incentive structure oriented to take the second route. To sustain this the article: (a) briefly   analyses the main perspectives on SC in terms of cooperation;  (b) establishes the problem of cooperation as a collective action dilemma; and then, (c) discusses the conditions that grant either a positive or a negative effect of SC.


social capital; collective action; cooperation

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ISSN 2239-8589 | Managing Editor: Debora Viviani | Editor in Chief: Paola Di Nicola