Community, Individualism and Social Capital, the Political Economy of Transfers

  • Jacques Charmes
Part of the Demographic Transformation and Socio-Economic Development book series (DTSD, volume 10)


Social capital, which encompasses solidarities in traditional societies and can be measured by the amount of transfers (received and given) from household to household, can be envisaged as an obstacle to individualism, private initiative and economic development. Still, during crises, it is a powerful shock absorber and can play the role of missing public social protection systems in economies where paid employment remains the exception. Social capital and household-to-household transfers have played a major role in maintaining the living standards and providing the livelihood to those members of extended families who are in need in sub-Saharan African societies. But the deepening of the globalisation process with the extension of individualisation as its correlate, the start of long delayed demographic transitions with the hope to benefit from the demographic dividend and also the entry into ageing societies have characterised the recent period; in addition, successive crises occurred during the past two decades: all are factors explaining why the embeddedness of traditional societies in sound social interrelations – in social capital – may be seen as vanishing. The challenges of poverty, gender equality and more generally most of those borne by the SDGs raise the question of the possibility and opportunity of a social protection floor for all in Africa.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacques Charmes
    • 1
  1. 1.IRD University of Paris DescartesParisFrance

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