IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Is Social Capital Really Capital?


  • Lindon Robison
  • A. Allan Schmid
  • Marcelo Siles


Social capital has emerged as a paradigm capable of bridging across various social science disciplines. However, its adoption by social scientists from different disciplines has led to multiple and often conflicting definitions. Besides conflicting definitions, some social scientists have argued that social capital lacks the properties of capital and should be called something other than capital. This paper resolves many of the problems created by conflicting definitions by pointing out that the differences have arisen primarily because scientists have included in the definition expressions of its possible uses, where it resides, and how its service capacity can be changed. This paper argues that these applications of social capital should not be included in its definition. This paper also defends the social capital paradigm against the claim that it lacks capital-like properties by pointing out that social capital, when defined as sympathy, has many important capital-like properties including transformation capacity, durability, flexibility, substitutability, opportunities for decay (maintenance), reliability, ability to create other capital forms, and investment (disinvestment) opportunities. Finally, this paper compares social capital to other forms of capital including cultural capital and human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Lindon Robison & A. Allan Schmid & Marcelo Siles, 2002. "Is Social Capital Really Capital?," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 60(1), pages 1-21.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:60:y:2002:i:1:p:1-21
    DOI: 10.1080/00346760110127074

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Baron, James N & Hannan, Michael T, 1994. "The Impact of Economics on Contemporary Sociology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(3), pages 1111-1146, September.
    2. Emery N. Castle, 1998. "A Conceptual Framework for the Study of Rural Places," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(3), pages 621-631.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:60:y:2002:i:1:p:1-21. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.