Social Capital And Ethnic Relations. Tolerance, Trust And Cooperation In Multiethnic Communities

excerpt Conclusions and perspectivesThere are some problems connected with the research of the implications of the social capital in the development of ethnic relationships in Transylvania. Social trust and participating in secondary organizations are rather issues of availability for everyday relationships than of evaluation of the policies of the Hungarian and Romanian states. The connection between social action and social trust on the one hand, as well as a certain degree of symbolism – Hungarians may become a threat for Romanians; among several ethnic groups, Hungarians have the greatest political influence; Hungarians who invest in Romania have political goals; Hungary will always stick to its claim on Transylvania – are in contrast with the positive effects of social capital on most of the day-to-day relationships: these imply the help and pieces of advice that Romanians ask from Hungarians, the habit of buying from shops attended by Hungarians and of greeting the neighbors of other nationalities, and the willingness of having neighbors and relatives of Hungarian nationality. The difference between the two situations raises questions about the importance of the symbolical subjects and on their role in the dispute of the two communities' elites and of ethnic relationships. If the cultural and political symbolic elements within the ethnic relationship prove to be more important than the interpersonal ones, this might trigger a sudden solution to the contradictions, or at least the changing of the disputes into purely practical, and thus negotiable, ones. Maintaining them at a symbolical level (by the retrocession of nationalized buildings with an actual assignation of public interest, by placing and labeling certain monuments, or by establishing certain institutions in the Hungarian language) only undermines a possible transfer of trust and cooperation from the interpersonal level to the intercommunity and interstate level. Those who transform and cultivate the symbolic capital are no doubt nationalist leaders. From the perspective of social capital, their role is very erosive in what concerns trust and cooperation. I think that the common will of not generating electoral capital out of symbolic themes, the will to fix the injustice that can still be fixed, and the will to publicly discredit the authority of the nationalist leaders could complement some measures of compromise. From this point of view, the political collaboration between UDMR (the Democratic Union of the Magyars from Romania) and PD (the Democratic Party), that was technically negotiated, means turning from symbolic to practical, from intransigence to compromise, which represents hope for trust and cooperation.Another problem is connected to the importance of taking part in secondary organizations. Its privileged relationship with the development of mutuality, tolerance, trust, valuing equality, civil and political rights, has not been completely demonstrated. There is still doubt about the effect of taking part in the values enlisted above and it is expressed by the advocates of the theory of selective sampling. The mere taking part in voluntary organizations doesn't seem to be enough for developing trust. Although, in general, participation and social trust are connected with the Hungarian ethnic minority, in some situations participation appears to be connected to other features. This is why Hungarians who declare a higher rate of participation are less willing to accept Romanians among their relatives, prefer to address policemen and doctors of the same ethnic group in the areas where they live, and declare a higher discomfort because of their Romanian citizenship. At the same time, we must also take into account the relatively small value of the indices and the fact that the status of minority nationality with Hungarians triggers different effects on the ethnic relationships. The solutions might arise on the one hand from the position of the state in the conflicts within the community, which is more and more neutral. The state will only be a trustworthy arbitrator when it expresses the sovereignty of its citizens, regardless of their nationality and when it proclaims, administers and judges guided only by justice and respect for civil rights. On the other hand, the civil society could develop a broader network of cooperation. It could stimulate mainly projects of mutual understanding, as well as projects with other goals developed in ethnic partnership. The language barrier doesn't seem to be more permeable in relationship with the elements of social capital, as we have seen. Mutual understanding also means understanding the cultural values of the others. If the Hungarians are forced by the competition on the employment market and by the school programs to use the Romanian language and to have minimal cultural contact, Romanians find few challenges to approach the Hungarian culture, which is inaccessible because of the unknown Hungarian language and because of the fact that it is not being promoted publicly. Several steps towards raising trust within the community were made by actions of certain NGO's and by some measures adopted within the administrative and judiciary institutional reform. 
Barometer of Ethnic Relations 1994-2002. A Perspective of the Interethnic Climate of Romania, edited by Gabriel BĂDESCU, Mircea KIVU and Monica ROBOTIN, Cluj, Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center Publishing House, 2005

by Dragoş Dragoman