Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

Ben Fine: Theories of Social Capital: Researchers Behaving Badly

Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

Ben Fine: Theories of Social Capital: Researchers Behaving Badly

Article excerpt

Ben Fine

Theories of Social Capital: Researchers Behaving Badly

Pluto Press, London, 2010, 271 pp., $69.95.

This is a devastating critique of the widely used notion of 'social capital'. Fine's previous major work on the subject, published in 2001 as Social Capital versus Social Theory, showed the incoherent nature of the concept and the flawed character of the social analysis that has used it. Yet the proponents of 'social capital' have seemingly carried on regardless. The one notable exception is the World Bank: from using the concept extensively, the Bank's publications suddenly dropped it about six years ago. Fine explains this primarily in terms of internal conflicts within that institution between economists and non-economists.

Within academia, and social research more generally, the notion of 'social capital' continues to have widespread use as a means of considering the interdependence of social and economic arrangements, and as a means of acknowledging that the strength of social networks matters in relation to economic performance. Cynically, it may also be noted that reference to 'social capital' also plays a key role in formulating large-scale research projects to attract research grants.

But what is really meant and what is being measured by 'social capital'? …

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