2023 GS4 Answer

Q. Explain the term social capital. How does it enhance good governance?

Question from UPSC Mains 2023 GS4 Paper

Model Answer: 

Social Capital

Social capital refers to the networks of relationships among individuals, groups, and entities that facilitate cooperation and coordination for mutual benefit. It includes shared norms, values, trust, and understanding that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives. Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions that underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together.

Social capital in India can be seen in various forms such as family bonds, community networks, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, and other forms of collective action. The concept of social capital is deeply rooted in Indian society and culture, where the importance of community, family, and social networks is highly valued.

Enhancement of Good Governance

Social capital can enhance good governance in several ways:

1. Promoting Participation: Social capital fosters greater participation in public affairs, which is a key aspect of good governance. It encourages citizens to participate in decision-making processes, thereby making the government more responsive and accountable. For example, in India, the Panchayati Raj system of local self-governance has been successful in many places due to the strong social capital in rural communities.

2. Building Trust: Social capital helps to build trust among individuals and communities. This trust can facilitate cooperation and consensus-building, which are important for effective governance. For instance, the success of the Kerala model of development in India has been attributed to the high levels of social capital, which has fostered trust and cooperation among the diverse communities in the state.

3. Facilitating Collective Action: Social capital can facilitate collective action by providing a platform for individuals and groups to work together for common goals. This can lead to more effective implementation of policies and programs. In India, the success of various community-based natural resource management initiatives, such as the joint forest management and watershed development programs, can be attributed to the strong social capital in the communities involved.

4. Strengthening Institutional Performance: Social capital can strengthen the performance of institutions by promoting norms of reciprocity and mutual aid. This can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of public services. For example, in India, the strong social capital in the state of Himachal Pradesh has been linked to the high performance of its education and health systems.


In conclusion, social capital plays a crucial role in enhancing good governance. It promotes participation, builds trust, facilitates collective action, and strengthens institutional performance. However, it is important to note that social capital is not a panacea for all governance problems. It needs to be complemented by other forms of capital – human, physical, and financial – and by effective institutional mechanisms for it to contribute to good governance.

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