Social Capital (Key Ideas)
The term ‘social capital’ is a way of defining the intangible resources of community, shared values and trust upon which we draw in daily life. It has achieved considerable international currency across the social sciences through the very different work of Pierre Bourdieu in France and James Coleman and Robert Putnam in the United States, and has been widely taken up within politics and sociology as an explanation for the decline in social cohesion and community values in western societies. It has also been adopted by policy makers, particularly in international governmental bodies such as the World Bank.
This fully revised second edition of Social Capital provides a thorough overview of the intense and fast-moving debate surrounding this subject. This clear and comprehensive introduction explains the theoretical underpinning of the subject, the empirical work that has been done to explore its operation, and the influence that it has had on public policy and practice. It includes guides to further reading and a list of the most important websites.
using social capital to compensate for shortfalls in other resources (Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch 1995:131–2). As Coleman suggested, then, social capital may offer particularly significant educational resources for those who are otherwise relatively disadvantaged. Unlike Coleman, though, Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch (1995) found that students’ grades were particularly related to the number and range of weak ties, including those that brought people into contact with non-kin and
means clear from Putnam’s account as to why this equation should hold good, other than the general tendency of delinquent peers to influence other young people into crime, and of positive role models and support networks to lead kids away from crime (Putnam 2000:310–13). Nevertheless, there are some clear indicators in more recent and detailed work of the nature of the link between social capital and the tendency to abide by the law. Much recent research is North American, and points to the
hierarchies and bureaucratic rules (Fukuyama 2001:10), but precisely these features of social capital represent an opportunity for those who wish to engage in fraud. And while pluralistic democracy may require a healthy variety of associations, not all associations produce trust in strangers and thus build tolerance and reciprocity at societal level. Some associations are little more than cliques of like-minded people who seek to pursue their own vested interests (Streeck 1999). And so on. The
the breakdown of community is most calamitous to the least advantaged. In Colombia and Guatemala, researchers reported frequent complaints from the urban poor about the lack of social fabric and the resulting climate of fear (McIlwaine and Moser 2001:971). Concern about community appears to be more widespread among disadvantaged groups than among the privileged, presumably because the latter are able to use other resources to protect their interests. Yet their decisions in turn may (largely
neighbourhood, voluntary associations and public institutions as integrating elements between individuals and wider social structures (Edwards and Foley 1997:677). Moreover, it allows social scientists to examine the role of these meso-level structures in a systematic way since it has, as Sara Ferlander (2007:116; see also Hooghe and Stolle 2003) points out, a structural dimension (networks), a behavioural dimension (participation) and a cognitive dimension (norms). While it certainly has