Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Social Capital and Educational Achievements: Coleman vs. Bourdieu

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Social Capital and Educational Achievements: Coleman vs. Bourdieu

Article excerpt


The theory of social capital is one of the most influential and most popular theories to emerge in social sciences over the last two decades (Adler & Kwon, 2002; Coleman, 1988; Fukuyama, 2000; Putnam, 1993; Woolcock, 1998). The popularity of the concept of social capital is a result of attempts to accentuate the value of social relations in political debates, to re-establish the normative dimension as a subject of social analyses, and to create concepts that reflect the complexity and interrelatedness of appearances in the real world (Schuller, Baron & Field, 2000).

The theory of social capital views capital as the resources contained in social relations. Lin (1999) states that the notion of social capital has a very simple and clear meaning - investing in social relationships with expected benefits - and emphasises that this definition is in line with other definitions that have contributed to debates on social capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Coleman, 1990; Erickson, 1996; Flap, 1994; Portes, 1998; Putnam, 1993).

One of the first authors to emphasise the relationship between life successes and various forms of capital was economist Loury (1977), who claimed that the quantity of resources we can invest in our development (i.e., level of education) depends significantly on our social background.

The concept of social capital serves to explain the influence of social position on the development of human capital (which is measured by the level of education). Social capital is researched within the framework of different approaches, thus resulting in the emergence of numerous conceptual and methodological issues: the coherence and uniqueness of concepts, its analytical validity and heuristic usefulness, operational issues with respect to issues of social confrontations and social exclusion, its political and social implications, etc. (Baron, Field & Schuller, 2000). Some of these issues emerged among researchers who linked social capital with an individual's educational achievements (grade point averages at various school levels, grade retention, drop-out rate, enrolment in secondary school, college enrolment, graduation, duration of studies, etc.). Given that all forms of capital are actually resources that can be used to achieve various goals, the ways in which various forms of capital are related to attaining particular educational aims are also researched.

Research to date indicates that educational achievements of individuals are related to various forms of capital that an individual possess (or does not possess): social, economic and cultural capital (Coleman, 1988; 1982; Doolan, 2009; Eng, 2009; Sullivan, 2001). Individuals who have more access to these forms of capital demonstrate greater educational achievements (Pishghadam & Zabihi, 2011). A large number of scientific papers emphasise, in particular, the significance of the relationship between social capital and the educational achievements of an individual (Parcel & Dufur, 2001; Pishghadam & Zabihi, 2011; White & Glick, 2000). Differences in educational success can be attributed to different levels of existing social capital, which is produced in the networks and connections of families that the school serves. For instance, social capital supports educational success in the form of appropriate school climate and the values that motivate students to achieve higher goals (Acar, 2011). The student's development is strongly shaped by social capital in the school, community and family (Acar, 2011). Furthermore, social capital positively affects educational achievement and, consequently, students' behaviour and development: it reduces drop-out rates and increases graduation rates (Israel et al., 2001) and college enrolment (Yan, 1999), as well as positively affecting achievements in tests (Sun, 1999).

Research on the link between social capital and educational achievements mostly emerges from either Coleman's (1988) or Bourdieu's (1986) theoretical foundations. …

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