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How do private entrepreneurs transform local social capital into economic capital? Four case studies from rural Denmark

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  • Institut for Jordbrugsproduktion og Miljø
  • Integrerede Geografiske og Sociale Studier

In economic sociology, Bourdieu’s neo-capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986) has regularly been applied by sociologists, who reject the rational action theory (Anheier et al., 1995). However, we claim that Bourdieu’s key finding that forms of tangible and intangible capital (e.g. physical, economic, social, symbolic) are being perpetually accumulated and converted by individuals can best be explained within a rational action framework. This framework should be seen as modified by specific social structures (Coleman, 1988) and, hence, characterized by uncertainty and risky investments. Methodologically, we think that the ‘laws of conversion’ (Bourdieu, 1986:252-255) can best be observed at the micro level, by analyzing specific strings of capital conversion in time and space. Therefore, drawing on in-depth interviews with four private entrepreneurs in rural Denmark we try to analyze rational capital accumulation, usage and conversion, with special attention to social and economic capital. The question becomes: How do local entrepreneurs transform social capital into economic capital? We find that social capital is the ‘master capital’, which gives access to the other forms of capital, including economic capital. Theoretically, we apply a simple Prisoner’s Dilemma model on four different cases. This in order to explain why one entrepreneur succeeds in capitalizing social capital by establishing profitable win-win cooperation with other local and regional entrepreneurs, and why others don’t.

TidsskriftJournal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
Sider (fra-til)631-644
StatusUdgivet - 2010

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