2012. Vol.2, No.4, 342-346
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/sm) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/sm.2012.24045
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Social Capital: Foundations and Some Social Policies in the EU
Alfredo Rodríguez-Sedano1, Ana Costa-Paris1, Juan Carlos Aguilera2
1Department of Education, U n iv e rsity of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain
2Faculty of Education, University of the Andes, Santiago, Chile
Email: arsedano@unav. es, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received June 5th, 2012; revised July 11th, 2012; accepted July 25th, 2012
With this paper we want to show which three pillars are fundamental that lie within the social capital:
trust, cooperation and the principle of general reciprocity. Some significant data about Abortion in the
EU-27 and in the EU-15 awaken us to realize the existence of social phenomena’s that can undermine the
social capital foundations and resent the people as well as the society, to the extent in which the social
policies affect; trust, cooperation and the general principal of reciprocity. Finally, we suggest the promo-
tion of public policies, the increase of public resources, as well as to launch campaigns to re-evaluate and
rethink the personal and social importance of these foundations. We also see the necessity of avoiding the
various manifestations that lead us to undermine these foundations.
Keywords: Social Capital; Trust; Cooperation; Reciprocity
From a social point of view the reality of abortion is highly
significant in the social settings and development of each coun-
try. From the perspective provided by the Social Capital, abor-
tion does not precisely contribute to the societies cohesion in-
A fairly general definition of the term regards social capital
as a quality of social groups, generally whole societies, which is
generated when individuals associate together with particular
aims in mind, including cultural as well as socio-structural as-
pects such as rules of behavior, security, proactive attitudes,
social integration or trust (Borgatti, Jones, & Everett, 1998).
This definition emphasizes the group-collective dimension of
social capital, and has been used in recent years as a key con-
cept in research into processes of economic and social or com-
munity development (Grootaert & van Bastelaer, 2002; Knack
& Keefer, 1997; Torsvik, 1999, 2000; Woolcock, 1998; Wool-
cock & Narayan, 2000), and as a mechanism in the explanation
of collective action and behaviors of association and social
participation (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 1995, 1996, 2000). In
this sense, social capital has been shown to be an important
factor in the analysis of the economic development of poor
societies, as well as in the course of political transition proc-
esses or the restoration of social cohesion after various kinds of
conflict or social problem.
The premise underlying social capital is that interaction en-
ables people to create communities, to form commitments and
weave social networks. This sense of belonging and concrete
experience of social networks can benefit both the people
themselves and the activities that are carried out.
The role of social networks in protecting people in times of
need has well-established microfoundations in economic theo-
ries of mutual insurance (Thomas & Worral, 2002), altruism,
social norms (Hechter, 1987), and reciprocity in games of re-
peated play (Fudenberg & Maskin, 1986).
These theories all suggest that social capital is greater when
individuals are embedded within a dense network of social ties
so that cooperation can be monitored and rewarded by others,
or when there is affection amongst individuals that promotes
altruism and expectations of future reciprocity. These theories
also stress the importance of long-term relationships and ex-
pected future encounters. Long-term relationships provide in-
centives for cooperative behavior and the time needed to inter-
nalize group norms and to form bonds of affection.
A number of factors can lead to dense networks and
long-term relationships, including a dense network of commu-
nity groups, norms of cooperation, long tenure of oneself and
one’s neighbors in the community, ethnic and linguistic homo-
geneity a nd close ties to exte nded family.
The Social Capital
In generic terms, the term capital refers to the set of available
resources, by individuals as well as social communities in order
to accomplish their future necessities with gratification. More-
over, in reference to the actual term defined by the Social Re-
source Theory (Social Resource Theory, Lin, 1982, 1990, 2001),
they usually refer social capital to the group of information,
services, goods, affections, and all sort of general resources,
which all individual or collective have access, as a consequence
of their membership to certain social networks.
Along with the human capital theory, concept labored basi-
cally labored during the sixties by Schultz (1961) and Becker
(1964), and two decades later the notion of cultural capital
(Bourdieu, 1980, 1985), the term social capital after many defi-
nitions and modifications, has turned out to be part of what is
called the new capital theories (the neo-capital theories), in
relation with the Marxist classic theory (Lin, 1999). The social
capital has to do with the creation, access and efficiency of the
resources within the network and social structures (Lin, Cook,
& Burt, 2001).
Its origins go back to classic authors such as Adam Smith
and Montesquieu (Sturgess, 1997; Woolcock 1998; Schuller et
al., 2000). For the majority of writers, it is defined in terms of
networks, norms and trust, and the way these allow agents and
A. RODRÍGUEZ-SEDANO ET AL.
institutions to be more effective in achieving common objec-
The fundamental commence explained by the document car-
ried out by the social capital in the development of a commu-
nity is the set of resources generated in the social networks-
confidence, reciprocity, information and cooperation, that cre-
ates value for the people who are linked to the network (Putman,
2000). Baron, Field y Schuller (2000) show their interest on
this point of view by the distance moved of the analysis center
of conduct from the individual agents to the patterns of rela-
tions between agents, social unities and institutions. Also Ka-
wachi et al. (1997) or Lomas (1998) have manifested the influ-
ence that the social capital has, as one of the most important
facts of the health levels in a community.
Never the less, we find ourselves with one reality in our so-
ciety: abortion seems to frustrate the expectations put at risk by
the social capital. The reason is quite simple: the rupture
brought by abortion in comparison to the confidence, reciproc-
ity and cooperation. Let’s briefly focus on some important data
given in the EU.
Some Important Data
In Europe (EU-27 and the rest of Europe) 2.9 million abor-
tions (2,863,649 abortions) were carried out in 2008 of which
more than one million two hundred thousand (1,207,646) abor-
tions were carried out in the EU-27, per year (Figure 1).
This means that in the EU-27 there is an abortion every 26
seconds; 138 abortions per hour; and 3309 abortions per day.
In fact, in 2008, three out of every four abortions (77%),
were carried out in the countries of the EU-15—for the devel-
oped countries—with a total sum of nearly 1 million abortions
per year; while the countries of the extended European Union
there were fewer than 300,000 abortions per year.
This information verifies that in the last 15 years 20 million
children (20,635,919) have been lost via abortion in EU-27.
Two out of every three abortions (63%) was carried out in
EU-15, and 7,586,844 (37% of the total) in the countries of the
extended European Union (Figure 2).
Romania, France and United Kingdom are, with a difference,
the countries of the UE-27 with the largest number of abortions
in the period 1994-2008. Although the number in the abortions
in Romania has descended, going from 530,191 abortions in
1994 to 127,907 in 2008 (Figure 3).
The number of abortions per year in Europe (2.9 million
abortion) in 2008 is equivalent to the population of Estonia (1.3
million people), Cyprus (0.8 million people), Luxembourg (0.5
million people), and Malta (0.4 million people) together; or the
entire populations of Slovenia (2 million people), Latvia (2.2
Abortions in EU 2008.
The Sum of Abortions (1994-2008)-Eurosat
The sum of abortion (1994-2008).
The sum of abortions (1994-2008) by countries.
million people) or Lithuania (3.3 million people).
Likewise the number of abortions in EU-27 in 2008 (1.2 mil-
lion abortions) is the equivalent of the populations of Luxem-
bourg and Malta together.
Each year due to abortion the equivalent of the populations f
Luxembourg and Malta are lost, or the entire populations of
Slovenia or Cyprus.
These data express that abortion is the prime cause of mor-
tality in Europe (Figure 4).
To conclude, abortion is causing verified effects in the popu-
lation of the EU-27 and that have directly affected the perspec-
tive provided to us by the Social Capital against the Human
Capital and its logic ruined.
Therefore, we can summarize to point out with the informa-
tion mentioned that:
The number of abortions in EU-27 in one year (1,207,640)
is equivalent to the deficit in the birth rate in Europe.
Daily, 3309 children are not born due to abortion in EU-27.
This is the equivalent of 2 middle size schools vanishing
every day for lack of children.
In 12 days in EU-27 there are more abortions than deaths on
the road in an entire year (39,000 dead in 2008).
In the last 15 years (1994-2008) the number of abortions
adds up to 20 million. This represents the populations of
Romania and Netherlands. Although the number of abor-
tions in Romania has descended, going from 530,191 abor-
tions in 1994 to 127,907 in 2008.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 343
A. RODRÍGUEZ-SEDANO ET AL.
Number of aborticns in rest of European
Countries (Not EU27)
Number of aborticns in EU27
Source: institute for Family Policeies (IPF) drawn from
and National data.
Number of abortion in EU .
Trust and Cooperation as Social Bond
It has been previously mentioned that the premise underlying
social capital is that interaction enables people to create com-
munities, to form commitments and weave social networks.
There is no doubt that these facts undermine the interaction that
underlines in the social capital and with it the confidence and
cooperation that w i t h i n them.
This interaction means that one of the main components of
social capital is the trust between individuals and social institu-
tions. John Locke said many years ago that trust is vinculum
societatis, “the bond of society” (1954: p. 213). Many other
scholars have expressed this in similar terms. Blau (1964: p. 99)
points out that trust is “essential for stable relationships”. Trust
is necessary for solving problems in an effective way and even
for the survival of communities: “when trust is destroyed, so-
cieties falter and collapse”, affirms Bok (1979: p. 26). Y esa
flaqueza se manifiesta socialmente, entre otros muchos factores,
en el aborto.
Alongside trust, we find cooperation. Social capital is related
to capacity for cooperation. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama
(1995: p. 10) understands social capital as “the ability of people
to work together for common purposes in groups or organiza-
tions”. Trust is so important for cooperation in any organization
or society that Zucker (1986: p. 56) does not hesitate to state
that it is “vital for the maintenance of cooperation in society
and necessary as grounds for even the most routine, everyday
Trust and cooperation require each other, because of the need
that everyone has to belong and to be bonded to others. This in
turn means that frequent interaction and concern for each oth-
er’s well-being are necessary. It is essential for people to feel
connected in affective terms to other people, and this is not only
a question of knowing people or maintaining social contacts,
but also of needing deeper relationships such as those which
exist within the family. “What makes the family different from a
mere aggregate of human beings joined for reasons of subsis-
tence is revealed by the fact that other goals are sought in that
bonding. We become united so that each one can live—so that
each has a good life or can live well. In fact, those goals do not
exclude each other. One refers to subsistence, the other to wel-
fare, and the third includes higher goals, above all love. Love
involves a spectrum of human phenomena, arising from inti-
macy, and it ranges from pleasure in qualities that satisfy us to
the gift of self and the acceptance of a person for what he or
she is.” (Bernal, 2008: p. 100).
One major aspect of what has been said about social capital
is precisely its relational nature, which is directly connected to
the moral density of which Durkheim wrote, for which it is
necessary to have both material density and volume. From this
perspective, sociology stresses the necessity and usefulness of
robust structures which make society strong. It is symptomatic
that anomie, one of the pathologies mentioned by Durkheim,
should be precisely the element which social capital prevents,
through a large number of remedies suggested by the authors
cited above, all of which revolve around a single point, which is
that society is reinforced if its structures are endowed with so-
cial capital. The data referring abortion reflect a certain type of
anomie, that is, the EU selfish anomie mentioned by Durkheim,
which must be given a response.
The Principle of General Reciprocity
There is no doubt that one of these structures that strengthen
society is the family. If it was enough until now to state that the
family is the basic unit of society, in order to comprehend its
unique depth and importance, we can now make a similar as-
sertion, which is that the family is the place where social capital
is formed (Crosnoe, 2004) and is the main source of social cap-
ital for young people, especially in relation to their education
(Furstenberg & Hughes, 1993; Hetherington, 1998). In other
words, “the social capital which is present in the relations be-
tween parents and children should be associated with the in-
ternalization of social behavior in the young” (Parcel & Mena-
ghan, 1993: p. 120). If marriage is the main producer of social
capital through the birth and rearing of children, family rela-
tions are the secondary network which multiply and secure the
human and physical capital which a society needs to develop
Crosnoe (2004: p. 268) is more explicit about the way in
which the family creates social capital. “As children move
through the education system, parents can provide instrumental
assistance, spread information about education and future op-
portunities, establish and reinforce the rules of behavior ex-
pected, and offer support as children navigate new scenarios,
conveying their own experiences of both success and failure.”
It’s within the family like no other place, where the fundamen-
tal components of social capital are found: confidence and co-
operation. With this said, and as it has been shown by the indi-
cators we pointed out, abortion does not precisely contribute to
the idea of family being creator of social capital.
The confidence and the cooperation of a third element is the
key to comprehend the social capital: the principle of general
reciprocity. As Taylor shows (1982: pp. 28-29), “in a system of
reciprocity, each individual act is usually characterized by a
combination of what we call altruism in the short term, and
self-interest in the long term: I will help you in the hope (possi-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A. RODRÍGUEZ-SEDANO ET AL.
bly vague, uncertain and not premeditated) that you will help
me in the future. Reciprocity is made up of a series of acts, each
of which is altruistic in the short term (benefiting others at the
cost of the altruist), but which as a whole tend to improve the
condition of all the interested parties”. Who does not benefit
from the reciprocity in the fetus that has been excluded from
that relationship. But on another hand it can also be said by the
civil society. That’s how The Witherspoon Institute (2006: p.
12) points it out to be “civil society also benefits from a stable
civil order. Families are small societies, and the network of
trust established across generations and between spouses
within the family is a key factor for society as a whole. The
network of family members and the laws that create and sustain
marriage are a key element in the ‘social capital’ which facili-
tates the creation of many kinds of civic association and private
groups. The virtues acquired within the family, such as gener-
osity, sacrifice, trust, self-discipline, are crucial in all areas of
social life. Children who grow up in broken homes often fail to
acquire these basic habits of character. When broken mar-
riages are frequent or there is an unstable situation regarding
marriage in general, society is damaged by a series of social
pathologies, including a rise in poverty, mental illness, delin-
quency, illegal use of drugs, clinical depression and suicide”.
What can we do to create social capital? According to Cole-
man, three factors can have a positive impact on its creation:
first, the degree of closeness in the relations between different
kinds of actors in one organization; second, stability is a critical
factor; and last, so is the sense of identity between members.
Instead of hierarchical power, “relational power” is required,
that is, the capacity to get people to do things collectively
through relations of trust and cooperation. The family can thus
be “a source of social capital by expansion: expanding family
trust to relations that are not properly speaking family relations;
or, in other words, it can create within society the environment
needed for trust to grow and flourish, and the seeds of this trust
are precisely those values that are transmitted within the fam-
ily” (Llano, 2002: p. 179).
As it has been carried out in this paper, three are the funda-
mental elements for the social capital’s development: confi-
dence, cooperation and the general principal of reciprocity.
These three principals are found within the family as a social
capital source, whose benefits are not only the members but the
whole civil society itself. The abortion data provided by the
EU-27 verifies that the pillars in which the European civil soci-
ety relies on are being undermined. The existence of social
pathologies or anomie, as Durkheim recalls, do not help or
benefit the family and society’s civil development.
According to what has been mentioned, we apply that there
are factors that induce to believe that the social capital in the
EU-27 is in decline. Is there hope for any suggestion? Faced
with the situation described and aiming to strengthen the social
capital in the EU-27, it would seem appropriate amongst other
issues, to encourage some standards of behavior that are lacking
now a day. Furthermore, we should point out:
The promotion of public policies that guarantee the rights of
the unborn child and the rights of women to maternity; as
well as to set up support systems for pregnant women.
To increase public resources from administrations, includ-
Finally, to launch campaigns to re-evaluate, rethink, the
importance both personal and social, of maternity, preg-
The authors would like to thank special editor and the blind
reviewers of previous drafts of this article for their valuable
comments and suggestions. We also acknowledge the valuable
contribution of Ines Reig for the conclusion of this paper.
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