Published by Crackers Books, 18 January 2024

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Social Capital

Social Capital: A Concise Overview

Social capital refers to the networks, norms, and trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit in a society. It encompasses the value of social networks and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other. The concept has gained prominence as a way to understand and address a range of questions in different fields.

Definition and Forms: Social capital is often defined in terms of obligations, expectations, information channels, and social norms that foster cooperation (Coleman, 1988)(Coleman, 1988). It involves various forms of social relationships that enable collective action for mutual benefits (Woolcock & Narayan, 2000)(Woolcock & Narayan, 2000).

Sources and Benefits: The sources of social capital include family, community networks, and social institutions. Benefits range from educational success, improved health outcomes, economic development, to the functioning of democratic societies (Kao, 2004)(Kao, 2004); (Kawachi, 1999)(Kawachi, 1999).

Risks and Contingencies: Social capital is not uniformly beneficial. It can also lead to exclusion of outsiders, excessive claims on group members, and restrictions on individual freedoms (Portes, 2000)(Portes, 2000).

Theoretical and Empirical Challenges: The concept faces challenges in measurement and operationalization, with debates on whether it should be considered as an attribute of individuals or collectivities (Bjørnskov & Sønderskov, 2010)(Bjørnskov & Sønderskov, 2010).

Implications for Policy: Social capital has significant implications for public policy, particularly in areas like education, community development, and health. It suggests that strengthening community ties and networks can have far-reaching positive impacts (McClenaghan, 2000)(McClenaghan, 2000).


In summary, social capital plays a critical role in facilitating societal cooperation and achieving various positive outcomes across different domains. However, it also poses challenges and risks, necessitating a balanced approach in its application and study.


Adler, P., & Kwon, S.-W. (2002). Social Capital: Prospects for a New Concept. Academy of Management Review, 27, 17-40.

Bjørnskov, C., & Sønderskov, K. M. (2010). Is Social Capital a Good Concept? Social Indicators Research, 114, 1225-1242.

Coleman, J. (1988). Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95-S120.

Kawachi, I. (1999). Social Capital and Community Effects on Population and Individual Health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Kao, G. S. (2004). Social Capital and Its Relevance to Minority and Immigrant Populations. Sociology of Education, 77, 172-175.

McClenaghan, P. (2000). Social Capital: Exploring the Theoretical Foundations of Community Development Education. British Educational Research Journal, 26, 565-582.

Portes, A. (2000). The Two Meanings of Social Capital. Sociological Forum, 15, 1-12.

Woolcock, M., & Narayan, D. (2000). Social capital: implications for development theory, research, and policy. World Bank Research Observer, 15, 225-249.

Recommended Citation

Crackers Books. (2024, January 18). Social Capital: A Concise Overview [Crackers Basics]. Retrieved from

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