Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings

By Charles Kadushin | Go to book overview

10
Networks as Social Capital

Introduction

Social capital is a fitting topic for summarizing the field of social networks. Central to the concept are the consequences of social networks, mainly positive but sometimes negative.1 To oversimplify, social capital implies that “social networks have value” (Putnam 2008). It brings us back to the fundamental premises of social networks, the tradeoff between the comfort and support individuals derive from dense networks of social relationships and the benefits achieved by going beyond local circles and forging bridges to wider universes. Characteristic for a social network-based idea, social capital operates on several levels. Networks in social systems may be nested, for example, organization networks within industry networks. There are also individual actor networks. At each level, social capital has two main consequences: social capital investment and individual social capital. Social capital investment, as is the case for financial capital, can lead to even greater social capital. For example, high voluntary organization participation increases community voter turnout. Individual social capital increases individual well-being—typically, physical and/or mental health, or adjustment and a sense of well-being. Individual social capital can also lead to financial well-being and social and/or occupational upward mobility. Further, social capital has cross-level consequences. For example, high community-level social capital can lead to individual well-being. These are impressive claims and social capital is a complex concept. In this chapter, we will unpack the concept, raise measurement issues, and review data on the consequences of social capital at different levels. We will discover

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