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Is Social Capital Really Capital?

Author

Listed:
  • Lindon Robison
  • A. Allan Schmid
  • Marcelo Siles

Abstract

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
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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.
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