Academic journal article Rural Society

Social Capital in Rural and Regional Communities

Academic journal article Rural Society

Social Capital in Rural and Regional Communities

Article excerpt

This special edition marks a timely opportunity to critically examine our conceptual understanding of 'social capital' and to assess its significance for rural and regional society. It draws together work from both researchers and practitioners from a variety of professional and disciplinary backgrounds. It provides practical illustrations of the value of social capital, as well as its limitations, and we hope it will contribute to debates concerning the formation and sustainability of rural communities.

For over two decades now, there has been an increased complexity in the way we use and misuse social capital. More often than not, social capital has been used interchangeably with related concepts such as 'community capacity' and 'social cohesion'. Thus, adding the increasing problem of providing definitional precision. Despite this, government and non-government agencies have come to rely on social capital as an answer to most policy problems regarding community attachment and bonding. The thought has been that members of a cohesive community are more likely to look after themselves and therefore rely less on government support.

This aspect of social capital has drawn much criticism. Critics have argued that social capital has become nothing more than a convenient tool for neo-liberal government reforms. Such criticisms however have had the unfortunate consequence of eroding its public good aspect. In other words, the 'positive' potential that enables individuals and groups to improve their socio-economic circumstances and the benefits that can be gained for a community more generally. Nevertheless, social capital remains topical and draws much interest from a variety of spheres. …

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