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Hopes and Anxieties in Europe

Six Waves of the European Social Survey

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Edited By Paweł B. Sztabiński, Henryk Domański and Franciszek Sztabiński

The present collection of articles is based on data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and analyses the changes in European societies. The first part of the volume is devoted to relations between legitimization, subjective well-being, voting patterns, and the role of social cohesion in determination of political culture. The second part addresses methodological questions designed to quantify the reliability and validity of certain measures in interviews, coverage errors, measurement errors, and non-response, as well as the understanding of questions in multi-country surveys in the context of the comparability between countries.
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1. Old and new hypotheses about legitimacy and trust

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1.1 The starting point

The thesis about the weakness of social capital, including the capital of social trust, has become an element of current scholarship on the subject of Polish society. It is supplemented by theses about weak legitimization of institutions, mainly political institutions. The starting point for my analysis is a more precise study of these theses, their meaning and possible interpretations. Then I will enter into a debate with them, indicating the possibility of alternative hypotheses. My brief treatment is in fact also a certain hypothesis that would require further elaboration. In its most general form it leads to the idea that we can rather talk of the peculiarity and varieties of social capital, than of its uniform weakness. The latter dominant research perspective does not allow us to see its symptoms in places not reached by traditional, more commonly used sociological instruments concentrating either on an excessively ‘psychologised’ concept of this kind of capital, or on its mainly formal expression. In this way its presence visible in behaviour rather than in declarations, and also its expression in informal mechanisms, is overlooked.

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