Keywords: social capital, Italy, determinants, land inequality, regional divide. JEL codes: N 43, N93, O17, R10.
This paper challenges the view that social capital is persistent and mainly determined by historical accidents. New estimates of social capital across Italy's 69 provinces are provided for the Liberal Age (1871-1911). The analysis shows that historical legacies may affect social capital developments, but their role is downplayed once contemporary social, institutional and economic features are considered. These factors deserve more attention than they are normally granted. This new evidence shows that the concept of social capital as a resource embedded in social ties should not be used to foster «culturalist» and deterministic explanations of Italy's regional divide. The results call for a renewed theory of social capital formation beyond the country's specific context, with implications for public policy.