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Definition And Types Of Social Capital

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1299 words Published: 20th Jul 2021

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Social capital is the the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition (Bourdieu 1983: 249). Social capital is defined by its function. It is not a single entity, but a variety of different entities, having two characteristics in common: they all consist of some aspect of a social structure, and they facilitate certain actions of individuals who are within the structure (Coleman 1994: 302).

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‘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. In that sense social capital is closely related to what some have called “civic virtue.” The difference is that “social capital” calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a sense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital’ (Putnam 2000: 19).

‘Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions… Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together’ (The World Bank 1999).

According to John Field, the fundamental of social capital is that ‘relationship matters’. It helps people to commit themselves to people in the community. It eventually becomes a shared set of values, virtues and expectation within society as a whole. However, Robert Putman (1993; 2000) is the person who launched social capital which focused on research and policy discussions. The World Bank also chose social capital as a useful organising idea. They argue that ‘increasing evidence shows that social cohesion is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable’ (The World Bank 1999). In this piece we explore the idea of social capital and the contribution by voluntary clubs to social capital.

Types of Social Capital

There are three types of social capital: bonding social capital, bridging social capital and linking social capital.

Bonding social capital refers to the links between like-minded people, or the reinforcement of homogeneity.” (Schuller, Baron, & Field, 2000) Bonding Social Capital indicates ties between people in similar situation. It can be your neighbours, friends or even family. (Woolcock 2001: 13-4).

Bridging social capital can be referred as building of connections between heterogeneous groups, which are likely to be more fragile, but more likely also to foster social inclusion.” (Schuller, Baron, & Field, 2000) Bridging social capital covers distant ties of like persons, such as workmates and fast friends. (Woolcock 2001: 13-4)

Linking social capital, which reaches out to unlike people in dissimilar situations, such as those who are entirely outside of the community, thus enabling members to leverage a far wider range of resources than are available in the community. (Woolcock 2001: 13-4)

The discussion of social capital is credited to three main theorists – namely Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman and Robert Putnam. Bourdieu stated that there are three kind of capitals, but for this paper we only look at ‘Social Capital’. Bourdieu provides a concise definition of social capital by stating: “social capital is the aggregate of the actual or potential resource which is linked to the possession of a durable network of more of less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition” (p. 249). Field and Wynne said that people access other forms of capital through social capital. In sporting circumstances, Bourdieu gives an example of golf clubs where individuals network to facilitate business, a social practice that is not available to all members of a community given the exclusive nature of many golf clubs (Field, 2003; Wynne, 1999).

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According to Coleman, social capital is not a single body. It is a structure which facilitates certain action, which has positive outcome; otherwise it would not have been possible. Coleman, through his research, found out that the level of school drop-out rate had reduced due to parental investment and family social capital. Coleman, in this context defines social capital as a set of resources that are available in family relation which is important for social development of the child. These resources differ from person to person and an advantage to children to develop their human capital. (Coleman, 1994, cited in Coalter, 2007, p. 541)

According to Putman, social capital is not just a public good but is for the public good. Putnam states that, bonding social capital are when people of the same community, with similar values associate together to achieve shared goals. They tend to reinforce restricted identities and are homogenous group. Putman also says that this kind of association have some negative points as they tend to exclude outsiders. Exclusion of outsiders here means that a football club will have a tendency to include supporters and players from a same background. They would try to exclude those who are not from the same background. On the other hand bridging social capital is heterogeneous in nature. Heterogeneity of social connections promotes linkage with different type of people.

Bridging social capital however, has the potential to forge connections. People with same as well as from different background can connect within the community or outside the community (Narayan & Cassidy, 2001). We can thus see that people who are connected through bridging social capital have a wider range of associates. They also got more opportunities. Therefore Bridging social capital is very important to enhance social inclusion and to develop community’s ability.

Sports Volunteers: The Real Active Citizens?

Sports Clubs are career for the expression of active citizenship through volunteering. Volunteers are more important than any other thing in a club or a sporting organization (Nichols, et al., 2004). Clubs provide an opportunity which helps the community by contributing to social capital through social interaction (Coalter, 2007; Long, 2008; Weed et al., 2005). The volunteers share their values, a reflection of the society where their expressions of collective values are encouraged, which is a positive contribution towards society.

As Coalter (2007) points out “the diffuse and contested nature of social capital is central to the social regeneration/social inclusion agenda” (p. 159). The volunteers have a potential contribution to rebuild the social capital. Sport England (1999, p8) stresses volunteering as activity which is fundamental to the development of democratic society. It helps in contributing towards their public life and develops their communities. Consequently such policies are as much concerned with the instrumental use of sport for purposes of community development as they are in simply developing sport in the community (Coalter and Allison, 1996).

The key policy message here is that the potentially positive benefits of sport are not only to be obtained via participation – involvement in the organisation and provision of opportunities for sport and physical recreation can assist in the development of self-esteem and a series of transferable skills – a view of volunteering as “active citizenship”.


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