Social capital and the economic downturn

A recent editorial by Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times discusses the “psychological fallout” of the current economic situation. He makes the following interesting observation:

But here’s something more surprising: As the recession deepens, participation in civic activities — community organizations, volunteer groups, even church attendance and social clubs — is likely to drop. Sociologists once assumed that during hard times people would naturally band together, if only to protest their plight or to give each other solace. It turns out that the opposite is true: Economic distress causes people to withdraw.

This concept of “participation in civic activities” is also known as “social capital” and for various reasons has numerous detractors among political scientists. Nonetheless, McManus’s article makes for an interesting read:,0,5206014,print.column

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