Civic Capital(ism)

In a TEDx Academy talk that took place in the Benaki Museum, Athens, on October 10, 2011, Elias Papaioannou argues that the current economic crisis in Greece is driven by the lack of civic capital. Papaioannou starts his analysis reviewing recent research in political economy showing that personal and social values affecting cooperation and civic engagement are crucial for various aspects of economic development, such as international trade, efficient regulation, an uncorrupt bureaucracy, a sound institutional infrastructure, and entrepreneurial activity. He then discusses the ranking of Greece with respect to commonly used proxy measures of civic capital, such as trust, blood donation, tax evasion, and parents’ didactical methods at home. Greece scores dreadfully low in most proxy measures of social/civic capital. For example Greeks’ distrust of both their compatriots and foreigners is the lowest among all EU countries. Likewise according to the World Value Surveys, Greek parents consider that teaching their children the values of tolerance and respect is not a priority. Moreover the Greek secondary educational system does not promote group activities, creativity, and innovation – all of which tend to accumulate building necessary civic capital. Survey data further show that Greek parents do not teach their children the values of trust, entrepreneurship, and innovation that correlate strongly with success in an open society and a competitive economy. The current economic crisis is thus to a great extent social in nature. There is an imminent danger that the much stretched by the economic downturn Greek society will disintegrate, leading to chaos, violence, and anarchy. Yet as societies tend to build social capital during cataclysmic events, the current crisis offers perhaps an opportunity to enhance social ties, build trust, and invest in much needed civic values.

The talk is available at A full list of the articles referred to in the talk is available here.

About E_Papaioannou

Dartmouth College

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