Discussion Paper

No. 2016-26 | June 22, 2016
Social Capital, Institutions and Policymaking
(Submitted for Survey and Overview)


Economic processes, consisting of interactions between human beings, exploit the social capital of persons endowed with specific cultures, identities and education. By taking into account this complexity, the authors focus on the role of institutions and policymaking in the building of social capital and its relevance to the fulfilment of their objectives. Social capital, however, is elusive and has several dimensions with which to interpret its multifaceted functions in economics and society. The authors cannot forget that social capital is sometimes even undesirable for society, for instance when unethically used. Even so, it is widely accepted that social capital has stable and positive effects.

JEL Classification

Z13 B52 D78

Cite As

Marco Savioli and Roberto Patuelli (2016). Social Capital, Institutions and Policymaking. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2016-26, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2016-26


Comments and Questions

Romar Correa - Reader Comment
June 23, 2016 - 11:21

The authors are indeed to be complimented for trying to grasp a slippery concept. I wonder at the extent to which they have succeeded. Social capital is one of the research agendas of modern economics and has developed a distinctive flavor. Partha Dasgupta’s book was a landmark. This essay, on ...[more]

... the other hand, is a compendium, albeit a useful one, of what the textbooks would call “non-economic factors”. For instance, if I were to give the concept edge I would confine social capital to the “relational” and not include the “cognitive” and “structural” domains over pages 3-4 of the paper.

Marco Savioli - Reply to Romar Correa
July 02, 2016 - 16:29

Many thanks for your comment, and for you interest in the paper. We agree that social capital is a slippery and difficult-to-grasp concept. Indeed, this is a fundamental motivation for our work. We tried to be as broad as possible to encompass all important aspects of social capital, while focusing ...[more]

... at the same time on its implications for policymaking.
Thank you for mentioning Partha Dasgupta's book, which we think reinforces the necessity for both a broad scope on the positive analysis of social capital and in-depth consideration of its normative (and policy-oriented) aspects. We believe that "non-economic factors" have a deep impact on economic outcomes, and that the mere maximization of economic aggregates like income can only partially explain behaviour that the literature has already shown to be motivated by psychological and social aspects as well.

Anonymous - Referee Report 1
August 08, 2016 - 08:31

see attached file

Marco Savioli - Reply to anonymous reviewer
September 01, 2016 - 12:24

We are grateful to the reviewer for his/her comments.
In the paper revision we will aim at streamlining the text so to highlight its aim, which is to provide a critical review of social capital from the perspective of policymaking. In doing so, we will focus on the dual role ...[more]

... of social capital as both a resource and an objective for policymakers, and on how it can be exploited to reach public goals related to well-being and social cohesion.
A further update of the literature will be carried out as well.

Anonymous - Referee Report 2
September 27, 2016 - 08:13

see attached file

Marco Savioli - Reply to reviewer 2
October 06, 2016 - 13:04

We thank the reviewer for his constructive remarks.
Consistently with our reply to the first anonymous reviewer, we would like to stress how our paper does not aim to be an “extensive” literature review, but a critical discussion of social capital from the focused perspective on its role in connection ...[more]

... with economic institutions and policymaking.
From this perspective, we gladly accept the invitation to consider further empirical evidence, highlighting, in the revised version of the paper, the separate insights coming from theory and empirics. Within this discussion, we will attempt to explicitly consider the role of social capital as a mediating factor towards socio-economic outcomes.
With regard to the role of social capital as a “policy target”, we will aim at integrating in our discussion the implications of policymaking for the long-run accumulation of social capital. Further refinements to the paper will of course be carried out, as suggested by the reviewer.