Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action

Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action

Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action

Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action

Synopsis

Social Capital explains the importance of using social connections and social relations in achieving goals. Social capital, or resources accessed through such connections and relations, is critical (along with human capital, or what a person or organization actually possesses) in achieving goals for individuals, social groups, organizations, and communities. The book introduces a theory that forcefully argues and shows why "it is who you know," as well as "what you know" that makes a difference in life and society.

Excerpt

Sociology, to me, is the study of choices in social relations. It explores the motivations for taking actions, examines what choices are available (perceived or real) in relations, and studies the consequences of such choices. Therefore, central to sociology is the analysis of both action and structure: choice behaviors in the context of structural opportunities and constraints. Choices are made within such opportunities and con straints, and choices interacting with structural opportunities and con straints can also alter or create structural opportunities and constraints. These processes necessarily shift between the macrostructure and the microstructure. How to capture and demonstrate these dynamics is what occupies sociologists' time and efforts.

This monograph is about a theory that suggests that actors (whether individual or corporate) are motivated by instrumental or expressive needs to engage other actors in order to access these other actors' resources for the purpose of gaining better outcomes. The core proposi tion is that such accessed resources embedded in social relations, or social capital, bring about better outcomes. Thus, social capital is social and useful. It is ingrained in social relations and facilitated or constrained by them. But within such structural opportunities and constraints, action makes a difference; given the same extent and array of relations for two actors, the outcomes may differ, depending on their choice behaviors. In this formulation, I accept the prevailing effects of structure and re lations. Nevertheless, I want to stress the theoretical significance of choices.

To do this, I divide the monograph into two parts. In Part I, I begin with a historical account of capital theories (Chapter 1) and the ideas of social capital (Chapter 2). The next three chapters describe the theory from the structural perspective “down” to relational and action dy namics. Chapter 3 describes how resources are embedded in structures, including networks, and Chapter 4 describes how motivations and inter -

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