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    Repairing civil society and experimenting with power: a genealogy of social capital

    Coole, Diana (2009) Repairing civil society and experimenting with power: a genealogy of social capital. Political Studies 57 (2), pp. 374-396. ISSN 0032-3217.

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    In this article my principal aims are to explain why the concept of social capital has proven so popular among policy makers and to develop a critical response to it. In order to do so I bring together macro- and micro-level analyses that focus, on the one hand, on broad structural changes associated with globalisation and, on the other, on specific attempts at increasing social capital within the everyday lives of communities. To develop my macro-level analysis I suggest that the conjunction of economic volatility and demographic mobility that has affected the West since the 1970s has made building social capital an attractive option within a more general experiment with new forms of power. My claim here is that building social capital is among a clutch of recent policy initiatives designed to repair the ideological resources of contemporary liberal states, where it is the tearing as well as the weakening of the social fabric that is at stake. I focus on the British case because building social capital has been explicitly highlighted by the UK government as a vehicle for civic renewal. The micro-analysis proceeds by analysing recent surveys and policies undertaken by Camden Council. Micro refers here to local symptoms of global change; to the micro-powers being developed in response and to the local authorities where social capital policies are being operationalised. I associate these with biopolitical and ideological interventions into the very building blocks of the social. Overall, the genealogy of social capital explores how the concept's discursive significance has shifted as it moves from the democratisation literature into the policy arena and becomes entangled in relations of power. In the latter context it examines the impact of concerns about segregation that justify intrusive policies associated with social capital building.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Birkbeck Centre for British Political Life
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2011 10:15
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 16:52


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