Extensive research has investigated social capital in contexts that represent ‘normal’ levels of social capital. By normal, I mean contexts found in society that may or may not be particularly positive or negative. This body of research has observed and attempted to measure social capital in these contexts and investigated its relationship with various factors and outcomes.
However, empirical investigation of real groups is unlikely to illuminate the limits of social capital and the factors that ultimately constrain higher levels. It may be possible to conduct research on groups that have very high social capital. However, will the existing conceptual tools found in social capital literature be suitable for such an inquiry? Instead, I believe the best and perhaps only approach is to make theoretical connections between the recognised aspects of social capital and various factors and processes that potentially limit them. This approach may allow us to understand better how to change social capital.
I used the following methodology: I started with the dimensions of social capital and their components, and for each, I considered how it is developed, strengthened, or changed and what may limit its continuous improvement. From hundreds of ideas, I created themes and made connections to the existing body of knowledge across a variety of disciplines. The following sections will explore the key themes I identified from this process. This should not be considered an exhaustive investigation since discipline-specific understandings across all social sciences may be relevant to understanding the social capital limit.
Citing this article
This report was prepared for the Institute for Social Capital. You should reference this work as:
Claridge, T., 2022. Exploring the limits of social capital: Can social capital be continually improved or is there a maximum?. Report, Institute for Social Capital, Dunedin, New Zealand.