Social Capital and the Functioning of Welfare Systems

Paola Di Nicola


The object of this paper is a reflection on the role that social capital can play in the processes of innovation and reform of the welfare system. The analysis is based on the following assumptions: 1. global society requires  higher levels of trust, but has no systems involving unfair sentencing of ; 2. the processes of individualization require high levels of social capital, but are not able to regenerate it; 3. growing inequality, together with the reduction of the redistributive welfare systems, not only makes people 'less equal', but also less 'trusty'. The complex society requires a lot of social capital at macro and micro level, but does not seem able to produce it. In the analysis of  the welfare system, social capital is inserted as a new intervening variable that, depending on the perspective, it is considered as a condition for the proper functioning of the system or as a result of its proper functioning. The social capital may be defined as a set of resources (material and non-material) embedded in the structure of relationships of trust and solidarity. In relation to the functioning of the welfare system, social capital, from a macro perspective, it can be identified with forms of action structures of civil society; from the standpoint of micro, as structures of interpersonal relationships (networks) based on trust and solidarity. To examine the role that social capital can play in the reform of the welfare system, it is necessary to overcome the dichotomies of micro-and macro, cause and effect, and consider the welfare state as an institution that incorporates within it the function of production and consumption of the social capital.


welfare system; social capital; social expenditures

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Scientific Magazine classified for ANVUR (Resolution n.89 del 6th November 2012)

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