Handbook of Social Capital

Handbook of Social Capital

The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics

Elgar original reference

Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen

The Handbook of Social Capital offers an important contribution to the study of bonding and bridging social capital networks, balancing the ‘troika’ of sociology, political science and economics. Eminent contributors, including Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, explore the different scientific approaches required if international research is to embrace both the bright and the more shadowy aspects of social capital. The Handbook stresses the importance of trust for economies all over the world and contains a strong advocacy for cross-disciplinary work within the social sciences.

Chapter 2: The Meaning of Social Capital and its Link to Collective Action

Elinor Ostrom and T.K. Ahn

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


* Elinor Ostrom and T.K. Ahn The rapid growth of social capital literature Few social scientific concepts have gathered so much attention and so many followers in such a short period of time than the concept of social capital. The fundamental idea can be traced back at least to Tocqueville (1945), Hanifan (1920), Jacobs (1961) and Loury (1977). Bourdieu (1986) used the term ‘social capital’ to express ideas that foretold the current meaning of the term. Schultz (1961) and Becker (1962, 1964), among other economists, articulated theories of ‘human’ capital in the 1960s, paving the way to a broader understanding of ‘capital’. It was only toward the end of the last century, however, that James Coleman (1988) carried out the first systematic conceptualization of the concept of social capital. Social capital has slowly gained recognition, and important theoretical developments have been made (for example, see Burt, 1992). The publication of Robert Putnam and colleagues’ celebrated book, Making Democracy Work, in 1993 unleashed social capital research into its current widespread and lively phase of development. The growth of interest in this subject is reflected in Table 2.1. The number of citations to articles and books overtly using the concept of social capital has escalated from two citations in 1991 to 443 citations in 2006. Now, we encounter ‘social capital’ in every corner of the social sciences, and researchers are tackling a wide variety of questions including: the relationship between personal networks and political participation (Lake and Huckfeldt, 1998), the challenge...

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