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54th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional development & globalisation: Best practices", 26-29 August 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
Many scholars, since the early 2000s, advocate for the integration of institutionalist and communitarian views of social capital generation in order to explain civil society dynamics, in particular in countries ? such as former communist states - characterized by transitional processes, with a relevant impact on the structure of societies, and by peculiar features of social networking. According to such a view, the civil society is the resultant of a combination of factors related to the social structure of the social community and the institutional environment, and the ways in which such levels interact. This view is, in a broader sense, an attempt at investigating in a more effective way the way in which social assets in society are generated, and their relation with socio-economic and sustainable development. However, attempted empirical analysis on the basis of such an approach have been mainly carried out at macro level, this way overlooking, to a large extent, the individual determinants of social capital and civic engagement, and the interplay of perceptions of community and institutions and social attitudes. The present paper is an attempt at conciliating the institutionalist and communitarian frameworks through a micro level-focused model, able to investigate the linkage between institutional climate and civic engagement and trust with the support of social psychology theories (in particular, social identity theory). In detail, the proposed approach emphasizes the linkages existing between perceptions of institutional behaviour and civil society empowerment on the one hand, and individual engagement and trust in the society and civil identity on the other; it also focuses on the way in which perceptions and attitudes are related to quality of life (measured in terms of well-being and job-related satisfaction). The analysis is based on over 2000 observations from two macrodistricts of the Russian Federation (Central and North Caucasus okrugs) and over 1000 from the Republic of Latvia. The proposed model investigates the possible causal chain existing between perceptions of civil society empowerment, trust towards institutions, civic engagement, trust and tolerance in the society, and quality of life perception, through a structural equation modelling-based quantitative approach for ordinal variables. Socio-demographic and socio-cultural features (e.g. ethno-religious self-identification, level of education, political affiliation, profession) are accounted for as control variables.
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