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The Dark Side of Social Capital: Alternative Ways of Understanding and Confronting Corruption, Distrust and Conflicts

The Social Capital Working Group organises a panel on "The Dark Side of Social Capital:  Alternative Ways of Understanding and Confronting Corruption, Distrust and Conflicts" within the Fifth International Conference in Political Economy "The Crisis: Scholarship, Policies, Conflicts and Alternatives" that will take place in Naples, Italy, on September 16-18, 2014. The deadline for abstract submission is March 30, 2014.


Asimina Christoforou, Athens University of Economics and Business
Luca Andriani, Birkbeck, University of London


Putnamian conceptions of social capital tend to focus on the positive side of associational behaviour. Norms and networks are usually conceived as factors that are naturally and inevitably conducive to protecting social interests by cultivating social cohesion, generalised trust and inclusive networks of heterogeneous social groups. This often overlooks the underlying norms and networks developed to serve the particularised interests of smaller groups at the expense of public welfare.

The surge of corruption scandals across countries reveals numerous stories in which public officials are accused of embezzlement of taxpayers’ money, while citizens appear to conceal their assets to safeguard them from tax authorities by using legal ‘loopholes’ particularly in global transactions. There are talks of states that essentially are not run by constitutionally-defined government bodies but by covert coalitions of high-powered individuals and groups that use whatever means are at their disposal to determine the fate of entire countries and regions for their personal benefit. The inequality in the distribution of rights and resources triggers a sense of injustice and distrust toward state institutions that promised to protect public welfare and toward the social groups that appear to take part in the misappropriation of public wealth. This gives rise to social conflicts and polarisation and thus opens the door to extreme expressions of discrimination and oppression against groups, like ethnic minorities and immigrants, who often take the blame for the worsening of economic and social conditions, after they have been driven out of their own countries to avoid poverty or persecution. For example, studies on the current global crisis speak of major financial and political actors that orchestrate the deregulation of domestic and global markets, and stress the unhindered and intractable flow of financial assets toward toxic bonds or tax havens that profit the few by transferring the costs of the systems’ failures to society through austerity measures that only deepen the depression.

Call for papers

In this context, we would like to study the so-called ‘dark side of social capital’, forms of association that are anti-social in that they exclude segments of the population and compromise social welfare. Some topics can include: definitions and cases of corruption; the rise in distrust toward market and state institutions and its consequences in the course of the history and the reformulation of power relations; the conflicts that emerge in different countries as a result of the worsening of economic conditions and the international reshuffling of interests. The current crisis can provide an important case study, but is not the only source for investigating the ‘dark side’.

We would particularly encourage contributions that explore ways in which the ‘dark side’ can be overcome by new forms of social groups and networks that trust in their values of social solidarity to reclaim the welfare of the people. This would stress the conditions under which norms and networks of trust, cooperation and reciprocity can be re-assessed and re-structured to confront the ‘dark side’ and create an environment to serve generalised interests. We welcome works that derive from various social science disciplines and use different units of analysis (individual, regional, country or cross-country level), methodologies and techniques (theoretical, empirical, qualitative and quantitative).

Abstracts (500 words maximum) should be submitted to Asimina Christoforou ([email protected]) by the 20th of March 2013.


International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy (IIPPE)

IIPPE was founded in 2006 with the aim of promoting political economy in and of itself but also through critical and constructive engagement with mainstream economics, heterodox alternatives, interdisciplinarity, and activism understood broadly as ranging across formulating progressive policy...

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