There are several dichotomies for classifying types of social capital. There are two main classifications for social capital:
From a network perspective social capital can be classified as either bonding or bridging with a third type suggested as linking.
- Bonding social capital – ties between individuals with a relatively high degree of network closure. Bonding social capital is often described as horizontal ties between individuals within the same social group (as opposed to vertical ties between social groups). Bonding social capital is often associated with local communities where many people know many other people in the group (network closure).Bonding social capital is often associated with strong norms, mores and trust which can have both positive and negative manifestations and implications for social exclusion. Many members have access to similar network assets so while providing solidarity, bonding social capital may not provide useful network assets in some situations.
- Bridging social capital – ties between individuals which cross social divides or between social groups. From a network perspective bridging social capital places the actors at structural holes where each is able to tap into the social network resources of each others social group. This is also described as vertical ties often operating through formal hierarchical structures.Bridging social capital may not involve many shared norms but is likely to be associated with reciprocity and ‘thin trust’. It may provide access to network resources outside of an individuals normal circles and as such can provide significant individual (and group) benefits.
- Linking social capital – ‘norms of respect and networks of trusting relationships between people who are interacting across explicit, formal, or institutionalised power or authority gradients in society’. In many ways linking social capital is not much different to bridging social capital.
Social structure perspective
Although it is possible to distinguish between different types of social capital on the basis of source, cognitive and structural forms of social capital are commonly connected and mutually reinforcing.
- Structural social capital – refers to elements of social structure that create opportunities for the social realisation of productive ends. Structural social capital includes established roles and social networks supplemented by rules, procedures and precedents. It gives structure and stability to social transactions. It is more than norms, structural social capital is built from the historical foundations of culture and institutions within society.
- Cognitive social capital – includes shared norms, values, attitudes, and beliefs, predisposes people towards mutually beneficial collective action.
- Relational social capital – is based on the characteristics of social relationships between individuals and is commonly described as including trust and trustworthiness.
These classifications of social capital into types provides a rich and descriptive way to talk about social capital. The network types and the structural types provide two different ways to describe elements of social capital and can be used interchangeably.
Click here for further discussion of social capital types from a more academic perspective (written by me in 2004).