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Winter School 2015 – abstracts morning lectures

Social Capital in the Network Society

Martin Hartmann

In Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Work (1993) social capital comprises features of social organizations such as trust, norms and networks that facilitate cooperation. Later Putnam uses social capital merely by referring to networks. In his article Martin Hartmann analyzes the relation between networks and social capital in relying on Putnam’s distinction between horizontal and vertical networks. While Putnam assumes that vertical networks, that is networks between unequal or unequally powerful individuals, cannot engender norms of reciprocal obligation and thus cannot produce social capital, Hartmann claims that social capital can be produced in the context of asymmetrical relations. To substantiate this thesis an economic model of networks is introduced and linked to neoliberal contemporary capitalism. In building upon the work of Boltanski and Chiapello it is further assumed that neoliberal capitalism is a network capitalism in which those who can successfully act in these networks as they are flexible and in possession of key qualifications rely on the work of a static and hardly recognized stratum of “doubles” that locally administers and organizes the social capital from which the successful, the ‘network opportunists’, profit. There is trust between these opportunists and their servants, a trust that even appears to be equally distributed. However, the network structures at hand lack the mechanisms, given in other, more intimate contexts of action, to sanction any breach of trust. This way network capitalism profits from a seemingly equal trust while not providing the less privileged individuals with the means to sanction breaches of trust in their own interest.

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