Social capital: a review from an ethics perspective

Angela Ayios, Paul Manning, Ronald Jeurissen, Laura Spence

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Social capital has as its key element the value of social relationships to generate positive outcomes, both for the key parties involved and for wider society. Some authors have noted that social capital nevertheless has a dark side. There is a moral element to such a conceptualisation, yet there is scarce discussion of ethical elements within the social capital literature. In this paper ethical theory is applied to four traditions or approaches to economic social capital: neo-capitalism; network/reputation; neo-Tocquevellian; and development. Each is considered in detail, and subject to ethical analysis by the application of utilitarianism, Kantianism, justice and rights, and ethic of care. Accordingly the assumption that social capital is either value-neutral or a force for good is critiqued and a framework for understanding social capital from an ethics perspective presented..
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-124
Number of pages17
JournalBusiness Ethics: a European Review
Issue number1
Early online date9 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • social capital
  • utilitarianism
  • Kant
  • justice
  • ethic of care

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