Social Capital (Key Ideas)

Social Capital (Key Ideas)

John Field

Language: English

Pages: 228

ISBN: 0415703433

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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to the thesis that privileged individuals maintain their position by using their connections with other privileged people. Coleman’s view is more nuanced in that he discerns the value of connections for all actors, individual and collective, privileged and disadvantaged. But Coleman’s view is also naively optimistic; as a public good, social capital is almost entirely benign in its functions, providing a set of norms and sanctions that allow individuals to cooperate for mutual advantage, and with

referring to connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. (Putnam 2000:19) This formulation seems to mark a refinement of the earlier definition, in that it presented trust (together with reciprocity) as an essential element of the norms that arise from social networks, and thus leaves us with two rather than three primary ingredients, namely networks and norms. Putnam then introduced a distinction between two basic

2002:563–4). A Canadian study of long-term welfare recipients during the mid-1990s showed that the influence of social capital on the likelihood of welfare exit was greater than that of any other factor, including human capital and demographic characteristics (Lévesque and White 2001). In Spain, it has been found that unemployed people relied overwhelmingly on the Instituto Nacional de Empleo; lacking effective contacts, they were forced to turn to a public agency whose results were minimal, and

Putnam has defined social capital as: features of social organisation, such as trust, norms, and networks, than can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions. (Putnam 1993a: 169) This definition originally appeared in a study of political traditions in Italy, but Putnam’s later work took the idea and applied it to the study of social connections in the United States (Putnam 2000). His central theme since the mid-1990s has been that since the 1960s, Americans have

Sociology, 105, 5, 1288–356. Ferrary, M. (2002) ‘Méchanismes de régulation de la structure des qualifications et specificité du capital humain. Une analyse du capital social des conseillers bancaires’, Sociologie du Travail, 44, 1, 119–30. Field, J. (2005) Social Capital and Lifelong Learning, Policy Press, Bristol. Field, J. and Schuller, T. (2000) ‘Networks, Norms and Trust: explaining patterns of lifelong learning in Scotland and Northern Ireland’, in F. Coffield (ed.), Differing Visions of

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