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Putnam and radical socio-economic theory

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to review the social capital treatment of Robert Putnam, the most influential conceptual theorist. The paper will detail how Putnam's treatment of social capital has evolved, examine the arguments of his critics and will also critique his socio-economic analysis. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The approach taken is a literature review that investigates Putnam's social capital understanding and considers the reasons why this conceptual treatment "touched a nerve" and proved so influential and adaptable. Findings ‐ Putnam's social capital treatment belongs to a socio-economic communitarian tradition that can be traced to de-Tocqueville, which offers an alternative to both mainstream free market ideology and to leftwing socio-economics. Originality/value ‐ The originality of this paper is to identify Putnam as a radical in a methodological sense, reinvigorating a Burkean, consensual interpretation of socio-economics. The value of this paper is to offer a critique of Putnam's interpretation of social capital.
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Keywords: Economic theory; Social capital; Social economics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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