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Cause-effect Hypothesis


Praveen Jha

ACTIVE SOCIAL CAPITAL
By Anirudh Krishna
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2003, pp. xii 253, Rs. 525.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 8 August 2004

It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that diagnosing the causes, and mapping the trajectories, of development and democracy are among the most challenging tasks for social scientists. After all, much of social sciences is precisely about such endeavours, and the serious students of the subject know very well the slipperiness of the terrain they are on. Of course subjects such as development, democracy etc. are enormously complex, straddling over the traditional barbed wires separating disciplines in social sciences; however, even from the vantage point of any given discipline, the relevant cause-effect hypotheses are often bitterly contested. For instance, at the present juncture, there are serious disagreements amongst economists as well as amongst practitioners of other social sciences, as regards the implications of the currently ascendant neoliberal model of globalization for development and democracy.   The volume under review here focuses on the notion of social capital, much discussed in recent times by sociologists and political scientists, and its role in advancing development in a broad sense. Based on the material collected from sixty-nine villages in India, the author attempted to explore such a cause-effect relationship. The specific question he raises is: does social capital provide a viable means for advancing economic development, promoting ethnic peace, and strengthening democratic governance? Based on interviews with nearly 2,500 village residents and a host of government officials, party politicians and others, as well as through a perusal of official statistics, the author seeks to answer the above question.   As one would expect, one of the core issues, if not the most important one, in the sort of story that the author wishes to share with his readers would have to be the robustness of the key concepts. For instance, the obvious question that begs to be addressed is whether social capital as an analytical concept is imbued with reasonably clear identity or is it akin to the proverbial elephant of the seven blind men. Those familiar with the literature might be excused for believing the latter to be the case. The variety of meanings with which this concept has been used by well-known researchers is quite striking, and some of these are: ‘networks’ (P. Bourdieu), ‘culture and trust’ (F. Fukuyama) ‘norms’ (M. Woolcock), features of social organisation’ (R. Putnam), communities (J. Durston), among others. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the critics of this concept (e.g. J. Harris, A. Portes and P. Landholt, ...


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