Social capital and well-being : delving into the deep determinants of sustainability / Simad Saeed Saeed, Simad

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Saeed, Simad
Social capital (Sociology); Well-being.; Sustainable development - Social aspects.
Researchers continue to search to understand better the underlying reasons for success and failure in societies. Following the footsteps of those researchers this thesis delves into a deep determinant of sustainability by exploring the role of social capital. Sustainability is a multi-disciplinary concept and is defined in the thesis as non declining per capita human well-being. Since the times of Greek philosophes, different reasoning on what constitutes well-being has been advanced. The prominent modem day philosopher Amartya Sen advances the notion of functionings and capabilities to function, the range of things that a person could do and be in her life. Theorists from de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill to D{u00FC}rkheim and Putnam have emphasised the importance of civic society and voluntary associations as vital to the pursuit of human well-being. Particularly marked are the virtues of civic associations and their capacity to perform many functions where states and market fail. It is argued that social capital facilitates collective action and reduces transaction costs involved in coordination of activities. This thesis is built upon the sustainability, institutional economics and social capital literature. To examine the implications of social capital for sustainability the central arguments at the heart of the debate on sustainability and the core of social capital and institutional economics theory is reviewed and analysed. The conceptual and methodological issues in defining and measuring sustainability and social capital are outlined with the available empirical evidence in the literature. The literature highlights that social capital may contribute to a range of well-being outcomes including higher levels of income, higher educational attainment, better health, lower levels of crime, and higher employment. In this thesis it is claimed that a nation is sustainable to the extent that it has in place social capital that maintains and improves the opportunities for sustainability in terms of the capital assets and builds resilience and fosters effective responses to stresses and shocks to the system. The hypothesis advanced in this thesis is that sustainability is a function of social capital. Empirical evidence for the hypothesis is obtained through construction of a social capital index and a well-being index for the atolls of the Maldives. The variations in social capital and well-being across the 21 administrative atolls of the Maldives are analysed using simple correlation and regression models. The data for the analysis were obtained from field data collection and secondary sources. The Social Capital Assessment Tool developed by the World Bank was applied for the islands of the Maldives and new insight was gained on measurement of social capital. An assessment of the formal institutions of the Maldives was undertaken through applying the methodology developed for democratic audits. The empirical evidence presented shows that social capital is in fact a significant determinant of well-being in the cross-section of the atolls of the Maldives. After controlling for other variables there does seem to be a strong relationship between social capital and well-being. Atolls with higher social capital are found to have higher levels of food security, higher levels of employment, higher levels of education, and higher levels of housing quality. This thesis shows that there is a significant and urgent need to invest in the formal institutions of the Maldives to further enhance and advance the resilience and cohesion of the Maldivian society.
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