Social Capital

Social Capital

Social Capital

Social Capital

Synopsis

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 Capitalprovides 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.

Excerpt

The theory of social capital is, at heart, most straightforward. Its central thesis can be summed up in two words: relationships matter. By making connections with with one another, and keeping them going over time, people are able to work together to achieve things they either could not achieve by themselves, or could only achieve with great difficulty. People connect through a series of networks and they tend to share common values with other members of these networks; to the extent that these networks constitute a resource, they may be seen as forming a kind of capital. As well as being useful in its immediate context, this stock of capital can often be drawn on in other settings. in general, then, it follows that the more people you know, and the more you share a common outlook with them, the richer you are in social capital. This, in a nutshell, is the thesis that this book explores.

The concept of social capital is increasingly influential. It has taken off like wildfire in the social sciences, it has started to catch on in policy circles, and it flares up from time to time in the mass media. While there is a spreading literature on the concept, this book is the first attempt to provide an extended introduction. It gives an overview of the main ideas of the three central founding theorists of social capital – Pierre Bourdieu . . .

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