Political Theory

Social Capital, the ‘Big Society,’ and Liberty


Since Robert Putnam's pioneering work on the importance of social capital, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic began to explore the ideas of mutual aid, social capital, and voluntarism as alternatives to government-run social welfare programs. This conference explored the various kinds of voluntary and cooperative social institutions that are strongly associated with personal responsibility.


Conference Readings

George Yarrow. Re-Privatising Welfare after the Lost Century. Edited by Arthur Seldon. London: Institute of Economic Affairs, Readings 45, 1996.

Beito, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890 – 1967. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Beito, David T. “Mutual Aid for Social Welfare: The Case of American Fraternal Societies.” Critical Review (Fall 1990): 709-736.

Gosden, P. H. J. H. Self-Help: Voluntary Associations in Nineteenth Century Britain. London: B. T. Batsford, 1973.

Green, David. Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare Without Politics. London: Civitas:Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2000.

Hanson, Charles, “Self-Help: The Instinct to Advance” In Re-Privatising Welfare: After the Lost Century [IEA Readings 45], edited by Arthur Seldon, 71-78. London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1996.

Meadowcroft, John and Mark Pennington. Rescuing Social Capital from Social Democracy. London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 2007.

Norman, Jesse. The Big Society. Buckingham: The University of Buckingham Press, 2010.

Paxton, Pamela. “Social Capital and Democracy: An Interdependent Relationship.” American Sociological Review 67 (2002): 254-277.

Portes, Alejandro. “Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology.” Annual Review of Sociology (1998): 1-24.

Putnam, Robert. "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital." Journal of Democracy (January 1995): 6.1 (65-78).

Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Putnam, Robert D. “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-First Century.” Scandinavian Political Studies 30, no. 2 (2007): 137-174.