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Working paper

WP90: Social capital and political violence in sub-Saharan Africa

Ravi Bhavnani and David Backer 7 Dec 2007 Botswana, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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This article uses data from the Afrobarometer—an individual-level survey that has been conducted in 18 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa—to explore the nature of social capital and its relationship to political violence. Building on and extending this prior literature, we seek to assess whether different aspects of social capital influence the nature and prevalence of political violence, and their potential precursors and enabling conditions, in the African context. Multivariate estimations, of note, yield two counter-intuitive results: membership in professional and business associations is consistently linked with greater levels of political violence, whereas membership in religious groups seems to lessen such conflict. The authors find that the lack of social capital—or forms of social capital with potential down sides such as intra-group bonding—can presumably have negative consequences for development. Section 6, in turn, concludes with a discussion of the significance of our findings, and reflections about future extensions to this research.

Ravi Bhavnani

Ravi Bhavnani is assistant professor of Political Science at Michigan State University.

David Backer

David Backer is assistant professor of Government at the College of William and Mary