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|Title:||Understanding the concept of social capital: Neoliberalism, social theory or neoliberal social theory?|
Australian social policy
|Publisher:||University of Sydney.|
|Abstract:||This thesis examines the growing debate around the concept of social capital. The concept has been heralded by many as a means of uniting the social sciences, particularly economics and sociology, and of overcoming ideological divisions between left and right. However, critics argue that the concept is poorly theorised and provides little insight. More radical critics have claimed the concept may be a neo-liberal ‘Trojan horse’, a mechanism by which the atomistic thinking of neoclassical economics colonises social theory. I examine these more radical claims by exploring the origins of the concept of social capital within rational choice economics. I argue that we should differentiate between two types of potential colonisation. The first is a form of methodological colonisation, whereby overly abstract, reductionist and rationalist approaches (which I term modernist) are extended into social theory. The second is a form of ideological colonisation, whereby a normative commitment to individualism and the market is extended into social theory. I argue that the concept of social capital has been the product of a trend within rational choice economics away from the extremes of modernism. In this sense the concept represents an attempt to bring economics and social theory closer together, and a willingness on the part of rational choice theorists to take more seriously the techniques and insights of the other social sciences. However, I argue that this trend away from modernism has often been associated with a reaffirmation of rational choice theorists’ normative commitment to individualism and the market. In particular, I argue the concept of social capital has been strongly influenced by elements of the Austrian economic tradition, and forms part of a spontaneous order explanation of economic and social systems. I then apply these insights to the Australian social capital debate. I argue that initially the Australian social capital debate continued an earlier debate over economic rationalism and the merits of market-orientated economic reform. I argue that participants from both sides of the economic rationalism debate used the concept of social capital to move away from modernism, but continued to disagree over the role of individualism. Finally, I argue that confusion between moving away from modernism, and moving away from market ideology, has led some Third Way theorists to misconstrue the concept as a means to overcome ideology.|
|Description:||Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)|
|Rights and Permissions:||The author retains copyright of this thesis.|
|Type of Work:||PhD Doctorate|
|Appears in Collections:||Sydney Digital Theses (Open Access)|
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|01front.pdf||Title page, abstract, etc||133.55 kB||Adobe PDF||View/Open|
|02whole.pdf||Thesis||2.78 MB||Adobe PDF||View/Open|
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