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National Research University Higher School of EconomicsResearch projectsSocial capital of the Russian society and its impact on the economy: Structure, functions and evaluation methods

Social capital of the Russian society and its impact on the economy: Structure, functions and evaluation methods

2007

The purpose of this project was to develop the structure of social capital and methods of its evaluation and to test these methods in pilot studies of Russian samples.

Relevance of the notion of  social capital is related to two trends in social sciences. On the one hand, it has become another form of so-called economic intervention, i.e. the wide and not always justified spread of economic theory terminology and concepts into other sciences and fields of study. On the other hand, it perfectly complies with the need for inter-disciplinary analysis of political and socio-cultural factors of economic efficiency. 

The uniqueness of this research is attributed to the fact that until now Russian social psychology has not had complex, theoretically justified empiric studies of social capital, underlying cultural factors, and its interrelation with the economic and political social perceptions of people. In our research, we propose a new socio-psychological approach to the structure and evaluation of social capital.  

To reach this goal, we have focused on the following tasks:

  1. To develop a theoretical concept of social capital structure; to integrate sociological, psychological, and economic approaches to measuring social capital;
  2. To develop and test the tools of social capital evaluation;
  3. To evaluate social capital in Russia at the moment and to compare social capital of different age and ethnic groups.

Analysis of theoretical and empirical works on the issues of social capital by economists, sociologists, social psychologists has revealed that from the socio-psychological point of view, elements of organizational social capital can be divided into two major groups: content and formal-dynamic (structural). Content elements are a set of psychological images, regulating social exchange. Structural components characterize formal-dynamic aspects of objective inter-personal and inter-group interaction.

The core of the social capital is trust. When studying social capital, it is important to evaluate inter-personal trust, intra-group trust, inter-group trust (between co-workers and management, between different units and groups), trust in organization as a whole, trust in partners and clients (the so-called extra-organization trust) as well as institutional trust (trust in various social institutes).

The empirical study showed that the level of inter-personal trust is quite low among Russians at the moment. It has remained virtually unchanged for the last 15 years. Institutional trust is stronger among the youth than among the elderly; it is also higher in the center of Russia than in the periphery. Overall, we conclude that social capital indicators are rather poor in modern Russia, which may hinder economic development.

Using regression analysis, we have detected interrelations between social capital and socio-economic suggestions of the Russians. The strongest tie to productive economic suggestions is demonstrated by such social capital dimensions as institutional trust level, civil identity positivity, and the strength (intensity) of civil identity. The level of inter-personal trust is related to the economic paternalism approach.