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Examining the link between measures of social capital and democracy

Year: 2005
Working paper number: 141
Author: Jooste, Tracy
Unit: SSU
Abstract:

Dominant political theory suggests that social capital is an important prerequisite for sustaining democracy and upholding the civic culture in society. This paper examines the link between facets of social capital and outcomes usually associated with democracy, namely tolerance of diversity, civic commitment and political participation, using data on the South African city of Cape Town from the exploratory 2003 Cape Area Study. A descriptive analysis of respondents' views on tolerance, civic commitment and political participation is followed by the explanatory analysis of the relationship between facets of social capital and these variables. General interpersonal trust and associational activism are both low in Cape Town, but these variables do not explain the positive attitudes towards diversity observed.  While generalised trust is a weak predictor of civic commitment, associational activism is a positive and statistically significant predictor hereof. Social capital does little to explain levels of individual political participation. Thus, despite the fact that generalised trust and associational activism are both low in Cape Town, these variables do not suffice to explain the apathetic levels of political participation observed. The findings suggest that the relationship between social capital and democracy is varied and inconsistent, with some facets of social capital playing a more important role than others in determining democratic outcomes.


Publication file: wp141.pdf
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