Social Capital

Social Capital

Reaching Out, Reaching In

Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis

This book showcases new innovative research in economics, politics, sociology, and management regarding the topic. Leading scholars from a variety of disciplines present ground-breaking new research exploring the still-undiscovered value of social capital. The book employs a self-consciously multi-disciplinary approach to address two objectives: reaching out and reaching in. Through theoretical and empirical scholarship, the authors explore the many contexts in which the phenomenon can have impact. In effect, social capital research reaches out to issues of economic well-being, civic participation, educational achievement, knowledge and norm formation, and competitive advantage. Further, the authors investigate the many connections between the core themes of social capital and the pillars on which it rests, including structural networks, cognition, relationships and trust. This book is fundamentally about bridging – bridging across disciplines, units of analysis, and themes.

Chapter 2: Network Duality of Social Capital

Ronald S. Burt

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, public management, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


Ronald S. Burt1 This chapter is about balance between brokerage and closure, the two primary mechanisms by which social networks constitute social capital. Brokerage involves building connections across groups to increase exposure to diverse opinion and practice. Brokerage is associated with growth and innovation. Closure involves strengthening connections within a group to focus the group on a limited set of opinions and practice. Closure is associated with trust and alignment, ultimately enhancing efficiency. The balance between brokerage and closure is usually analyzed in terms of where to invoke the mechanisms: maximum advantage occurs when a closed network secures alignment within a team and team members have brokerage networks beyond the team (see Burt, 2005, pp. 126–66, for review and illustrative evidence). The balance has also been discussed, though never to my knowledge with benefit of network data, in terms of when to invoke the mechanisms: brokerage and closure are in perpetual cycle as a network duality, mending and undoing one another; brokerage followed by closure, followed by brokerage, and so on. It is misadventure to break the cycle. Business examples abound. General Electric chief executive officer (CEO) Jack Welsh emphasized ‘integrated diversity’ in the 1980s – a unity believed to work only ‘when the elements of that diversity, GE’s thirteen business units, were strong in their own right’ (Slater, 1999, p. 97). Rhone-Poulenc CEO JeanRené Fourtou emphasized the importance of preserving ‘le vide’ (literally, vacuum or empty space, or in network terms, structural holes): ‘Le vide has...

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