Over the last two decades, the concept of social capital has been widely used by social scientists across multiple disciplines seeking to describe the actually existing links between individuals, corporations and other kinds of social groups and organizations. Although various conceptions of social capital have been advanced, there seems to be convergence around the core idea that social actors derive collective benefits by virtue of their membership of social networks, i.e. the claim that social capital is a resource that derives from cooperation between individuals and groups, and that such networks have an intrinsic value that cannot be easily calculated in purely economic terms. Conversely, social capital is also regarded as a crucial factor in the production and reproduction of inequality and social exclusion.

The aim of this conference is to provide a platform for academics and practitioners from different fields of economic and business law to examine the implications of this on-going debate for legal theory and practice. The centrality of social capital has been partially acknowledged in some areas of law. For example, it is now recognized that corporate reputation and trust exists as an operational goal of prime importance for corporations. Executives value corporate prestige as an independent good because it closely connects to corporate performance, the self-esteem of status-conscious managers, as well as employee morale. The emergence of corporate social responsibility and shaming sanctions highlights the recognition of social capital by regulators, as well as private actors. Furthermore, illuminating studies could be made with regard to the role of social capital in enhancing our understanding of political, economic natural emergencies.

Nevertheless, it appears that legal academics have not fully entered into debates on social capital, nor have the effects of social networks permeated into all areas of economic and business law. As such, space remains for greater elaboration on the meaning and potential value of social capital for our understanding of law.  The conceptual vocabulary of the social capital literature (terms such as binding, bridging, bonding, brokerage, enclosure, dissemination, and intermediaries) seems to be closely connected to issues that underlie legal theory and practice. This conference therefore aims to provoke further discussion by providing a forum for examining how the notion of social capital might be more effectively integrated into contemporary legal debates on the regulation of commercial activities.

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