1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

Social Policy and Development: Social Capital as Point of Departure (Draft)



The relationship between "the economic" and "the social" has ever been theoretically uneasy. The result has often been a hardening into one of two extremes. As perceived by neoliberalism, the economy is best left to the market and, at most, the social is a necessary evil, required to oil the wheels of commerce. In contrast, the alternative stance is to emphasize both micro and macro market imperfections and, thereby, to understand the social as an essential means to correct them. It seems that the intellectual, ideological and policy mood is currently swinging away from the first and towards the second position, and this shift is to be welcomed. One indicator of this is the extent to which "the social", often previously rounded up in the notion of “civil society”, has increasingly been seen both as an instrument and a goal of economic and social policy. Nonetheless, a casual reading of any area of such literature, accompanied by a modicum of critical thinking, suggests a number of cautionary tales.

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