Social capital is a contested concept, embraced by the mainstream as ‘‘the missing link’’ in economic analysis. This article suggests a way to turn it into a more meaningful understanding of how social relations matter in the economy. It will do so by unpacking the concept into various elements, distinguishing what social relations are from what they do, and by recognizing power in social relationships. We will illustrate our alternative approach with two case studies on the Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SME) footwear sector in Ethiopia and Vietnam. We conclude with suggestions on how this more contextual approach to the understanding of the economic influences of social relations may contribute to social economics.

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Keywords Ethiopia, SME, Vietnam, economic development, footwear, social capital, social relations, trust
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Series ISS Staff Group 0
Journal Review of Social Economy
van Staveren, I.P, & Knorringa, P. (2007). Unpacking Social Capital in Economic Development: How Social Relations Matter. Review of Social Economy, 65(1), 107–135. doi:10.1080/00346760601132147