How do you define the term “social capital”?

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Eliz G. Tchakarian 9 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #117962

    How do you define the term “social capital”? What does it mean to you? What are examples you’ve seen or experienced involving “social capital”?

  • #117968

    Eliz G. Tchakarian

    Great topic! I’m surprised nobody has written anything yet. Gee (2005) has a great way of describing “social capital” and how it is related to language in his book on discourse analysis. I know this is not quite the definition anyone was looking for, but language and the ways in which we use it is tightly related to our social life. In fact, it is not only related it is reflected and build by language at the same time. Thus, “social capital” is anything that can be negotiated through language and that does not only include money and material possessions, but social status and reputation.

    I hope to see what the non-linguists have to say about this! 🙂

  • #117966

    Thanks for weighing in, Eliz. This definitely gets the discussion started. It’s certainly a topic that I want to look into more thoroughly.

  • #117964


    As Putnam wrote in “Bowling Alone” (2000),

    “Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties of
    individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals — social
    networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.”

    While education develops skills, abilities, talents, knowledge, and, of course, credentials for the individual student, i.e., human capital, a critical aspect of the educational process is the development and/or accessing of social capital. Education can provide self-actualization for the individual, but the individual will not reap the full external social and economic benefits of education without the social capital aspect. To this extent, a lack of social capital may restrict the potential benefits of education, such as upward mobility. When a side effect of social capital is the exclusion of “outsiders,” such outsiders may, for example, experience very little social and economic benefit from even from the most advanced/elite education and training experiences.

    GovLoop is a strong example of social capital — providing opportunities for both the bonding and bridging varieties of social networks. Mostly people discuss social capital in terms of the virtuous examples. Criminals gangs of course are an example of non-virtuous social capital.

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