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Summary

The purpose of these analyses is to investigate collective memory, i.e. the shared historical experiences of a community, as driving force for contemporary social capital. Three societal characteristics are considered proxies for collective memory: the current institutional framework as indicator for present common experiences; the cultural attitudes as proxy for long-term developments; and severe shocks in the history of the regions. The primary aim is thus to understand whether collective memory permits identification of not only the effects of recent (i.e. institutional) or distant (i.e. cultural) on-going experiences, but also of the impact of such relevant shocks. For this purpose, a comprehensive case study is conducted within a cross-border research area with special historical development, where it is possible to discriminate between these three indicators of collective memory.

The findings suggest a significant impact of collective memory on social capital endowment. Particularly striking shocks are sustained in the collective memory of a community, influencing its behavior even long after the incident occurred. As a consequence, especially the levels of social trust and networking of the affected population are significantly influenced, such that the community develops protective measures in order to secure its norms, values and traditions. As a result, the social capital of a population is heavily influenced by events that occurred outside living memory.