Social Capital, Civil Society, and the Question of Values

Social Capital, Civil Society, and the Question of Values

Mazen Hashem


The rising interest in the idea of civil society in the last decade highlights the problematic place of values in social sciences.  Social sciences, seeking scientificity through mostly empirical verification and positivistic methods, presented themselves as the neutral guarantor of a free society, punctuated by a rationalized concept of societal institutions and human behavior.  On the other hand, social experience continuously provides compelling evidence on the solidity and viability of the “natural social order” in which values are central.   The concept of civil society and social capital were reincarnated only to face the perennial question of values.  The inevitability of thinking in terms of values, where do they come from, and how they govern modern societies was asserted again.

This paper is two-fold.  First, it provides a brief critical review of the concepts of civil society and social capital, highlighting their sidelining of values.  Second, the paper argues that re-incorporating values into social sciences can be achieved through reclaiming meta-values that: (1) attune to moral, and not just utilitarian concerns, (2) assume historical validity, and (3) are conceptualized simultaneously at the individual and the collective levels.  Thinking in terms of meta-values, this paper asserts, has the promise for a renewed vision of a just social order.

Read the paper: CivilSoc-SocCapital-Values

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