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Social Capital Literature

Many studies on social capital start with the early evolution of the concept of social capital which has relevance in understanding the historic development of the concept. What is more important is an understanding of the historical development of the concept, not the term, which has deep roots in early sociology and economics. It was not until the 1980s that the contemporary authors brought the use of the term social capital to popular attention. A problem that every author on social capital has had to deal with are the definitional problems of social capital. The result of not having a commonly agreed definition is that authors will discuss the various existing definitions before adding their own definition for the purposes of their study. The definitional problems run so deep that there is rampent debate over whether social capital is really ‘capital’. An important contribution to this study was the reveiw of current social capital theory including the dimensions of social capital, the levels at which it is located, the types of social capital, the determinants of social capital, the benefits and importance of social capital and the disadvantages or downsides of social capital.

The concept of social capital is still in its early stages of conceptualisation and there are still many problems with the current conceptualization. Different authors approach the subject from different disciplines and from different points of view and applications and the result is a variety of current conceptual approaches. The operationalization of social capital continues to be a significant problem as many studies apply very poor and often inappropriate conceptualisations designed for different purposes. These studies do not take into account the highly context specific nature of social capital. There is a significant need to measure social capital however this is not always possible and at best leads to quesitonable results. Many studies do not question the direction of causality and end up finding exactly what they set out to find without quesitoning the methodology. Another important issue is that of building social capital. If it is a good thing then it is logical that we would want to improve it, and at least maintain it so as not to loose its significant benefits. An area that the literature is particularly weak on is gender issues and also a link between social capital and natural resource management which is of particular interest to the author.

Below is a list of the sections included within this literature review:

Citing this article

This article is part of a thesis submitted to the University of Queensland, Australia. You should reference this work as:

Claridge, T., 2004. Social Capital and Natural Resource Management: An important role for social capital? Unpublished Thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

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