The evolution of social capital section revealed that there appears to be consensus on the intellectual history of the concept and although there was controversy over the first use of the term, there now appears to be agreement on this point. Different authors see the role and value of the contemporary authors work on social capital differently. There is presently no commonly agreed definition of social capital however many authors stress the importance of basing the operationalization and conceptualization of the concept on a thorough definition. Perhaps more important than the definitional problems is the controversy over the use of the term ‘capital‘. There is compelling evidence to suggest that we should move beyond ‘capital’ debate and accept that the term is unlikely to be replaced for various reasons.
Social capital is a complex theory with many dimensions, types, levels and determinants and although different authors identify different dimensions of social capital all authors seem to agree that social capital is multi-dimensional. Further research is needed to conceptualize the various dimensions within a workable framework. Although widely debated, it is now accepted that social capital exists at the micro, meso and macro levels. Again it is identified that further work is required to conceptualize the various levels, and ownership of social capital as well as the types, to establish an agreed framework and definition. Much work is still required to move the understanding of social capital determinants from the applied theory area to have empirical support.
There are numerous purported benefits of social capital that largely arise from theoretical extrapolation. It is surprising that there is little skepticism of the benefits considering the lack of rigorous empirical evidence. The importance of the concept is demonstrated by the unprecedented interest and application of the concept. Although well recognized in the literature, many authors do not take the negative aspects of social capital into account, particularly in empirical studies. The causal relationships that determine productive / perverse social capital appear to be highly context specific and therefore require further research.
There is agreement in the literature that the concept lacks a rigorous conceptualization and that this is required for valid empirical research. There is disagreement over the role of economics in this process. Much work has been done in recent years to further conceptualize the concept and it appears to be now possible to synthesize an appropriate conceptualization from the existing literature for a specific study.
Although there has been a number of different approaches taken for research in the area of social capital research, there is much fruit to be taken from a synthesis of the various approaches. There is considerable debate and controversy over the possibility, desirability and practicality of measuring social capital yet without a measure of the store of social capital, its characteristics and potential remain unknown. Many authors have identified that measurement attempts are flawed by problems with separating form, source and consequences, however, a large number of studies have applied questionable techniques to a very wide range of applications. Clearly there is disagreement over the validity of measures of social capital. There are many unresolved issues involved in the measurement of social capital. It seems from the literature that designing and applying context appropriate indicators of social capital can achieve useful measurement, however further work is needed to develop this area of the theory.
It is now widely accepted that social capital can be increased in the short term however there is a lack of understanding of the processes and how they operate to build or improve social capital structure. Although there has been very little work directly on social capital and natural resource management there are studies that can be applied to the area. Much work is required to understand the interaction of social capital and natural resource management outcomes.
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.