About This Site

This site is designed to provide a comprehensive resource on social capital and its research. All of the content of this site has been written by the author except where referenced. More than 500 peer-reviewed journal articles and published books and reports on social capital and related topics were used in this research in a lengthy study completed over 3 years (about the author).

The appeal of social capital stems from its intriguing integration of sociology and economics that some authors have heralded as a very important conceptual innovation or inter and trans disciplinary theoretical integration.

Although the term social capital is relatively new, the concept is not as it encompasses a variety of other concepts (evolution). Broadly, definitions of social capital include reference to social networks and the productive benefits stemming from them. There has been an unprecedented acceptance and application of social capital in recent years with authors from a variety of disciplines applying it to numerous applications. The authors commonly cited as the source of the contemporary debate are Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman and Robert Putnam. Of these, Putnam is commonly cited for popularizing social capital. The speed of the terms application following Putnam’s early work has weakened the theoretical rigor of the concept, leading many authors to question the validity of the concept. As identified by Wendy Stone, the supply of tools for empirical measurement outstrips demand. What is clear from the literature is that social capital is in a relatively early stage of theorization and much work is required to obtain validity of both conceptualization and operationalization.

The major focus of this site is to develop a more rigorous conceptualization of social capital. To do this, an extensive review of literature on social capital was undertaken including work from disciplines including sociology, economics, political science, and anthropology. This review provided the basis for the new conceptualization of social capital that incorporated current social capital theory and identified gaps and deficiencies. One of the major deficiencies of current social capital theory is that it does not sufficiently take into account the complexity of social capital, particularly in terms of level and structure. The conceptualization designed for the purposes of this study incorporates the relationships between determinants, structural elements and manifestations and considers the complexity in terms of externalities, chance, level, feedback loops and specific context. Social capital involves a complex interaction of space and time and as such, highlights the importance of an event as a major determinant. This has significant consequences for a range of circumstances in relation to building efforts and in minimizing loss. The conceptualization also highlights the importance of building and measuring attempts focusing on different aspects of social capital. Social capital is highly context specific and involves a dynamic relationship between its structural elements that fluctuate widely on spatial and temporal scales. The importance of specific context is further highlighted by the fact that the structure and consequences of social capital are not highly correlated; similar structures can have very different manifestations. These findings contribute considerably to the current theoretical understanding of social capital however there is still considerable work required to make social capital a usable and appropriate concept.

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The International Social Capital Association is an international non-profit member-based association devoted to advancing the research on and the application of the social capital concept for the benefit of all.

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