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Agents Cooperation and Network Sustainability: A Note on a Microeconomic Approach to Social Capital


  • Susanna Mancinelli
  • Massimiliano Mazzanti


This paper investigates (i) the extent to which the emerging notion of "social capital" is definable and treatable within a microeconomic approach, and (ii) what valuable research directions exist in this field at the moment. The contribution is aimed at framing a specific conceptual model in order to indicate a research direction, thus "looking for the fire behind the smoke" which has been generated around the concept. First, after a critical examination of the recent socio-economic literature on Social Capital, a microeconomic-grounded definition, revolving around the elements of reciprocal trust and voluntary co-operation, is provided. The definition is theoretically consistent with the recent and more relevant socio-economic literature, it is self-contained and thus it represents a feasible framework for further analysis. Secondly, the implications of the definition, regarding the role of social capital investments for the development of firm network and innovative capacity, are discussed. Finally, a set of possible extensions and main critical points are sketched. The main point we raise is that the analysis on social capital will fruit-fully develop only if several self-contained and theoretically sound definitions are drawn out at different levels, even with different research aims and from different methodological perspectives. A defined and robust conceptual framing of the social capital concept is in fact a necessary pre-condition for supporting consistent applied analyses. The work intends to constitute a point of reference for future research, generating some controversy and stimulating further contributions.

Suggested Citation

  • Susanna Mancinelli & Massimiliano Mazzanti, 2004. "Agents Cooperation and Network Sustainability: A Note on a Microeconomic Approach to Social Capital," Economia politica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 2, pages 299-322.
  • Handle: RePEc:mul:jb33yl:doi:10.1428/14115:y:2004:i:2:p:299-322

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    Cited by:

    1. Susanna Mancinelli & Massimiliano Mazzanti, 2009. "Innovation, networking and complementarity: evidence on SME performances for a local economic system in North-Eastern Italy," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 43(3), pages 567-597, September.
    2. Mazzanti, Massimiliano & Mancinelli, Susanna, 2007. "SME Performance, Innovation and Networking Evidence on Complementarities for a Local Economic System," Knowledge, Technology, Human Capital Working Papers 9554, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    3. Mazzanti, Massimiliano & Zoboli, Roberto, 2007. "Environmental Efficiency, Emission Trends and Labour Productivity: Trade-Off or Joint Dynamics? Empirical Evidence Using NAMEA Panel Data," Climate Change Modelling and Policy Working Papers 9320, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    4. Shideler, David W. & Kraybill, David S., 2009. "Social capital: An analysis of factors influencing investment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 443-455, June.
    5. Gurrieri, Antonia Rosa, 2008. "Knowledge network dissemination in a family-firm sector," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2380-2389, December.

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