discussing their implications for the proposed hypotheses, I close with thoughts on applicationsof these results in the development context.
II. SOCIAL CAPITAL THEORY
Most of the empirical work building on social capital theory draws on three mainsources: Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman, and Robert Putnam (Adam and Roncevic 2003;Foley and Edwards 1999; Wall, Ferrazzi and Schryer 1998). Although the exact origin of theterm is unclear
, social capital was first coherently theorized by Pierre Bourdieu (1984; 1986)and James Coleman (1988; 1990). Bourdieu identified different forms of capital (economic,cultural, and social) as key elements in a “general science of the economy of practices” (1986,p. 242). He defined social capital as “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources whichare linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition” (1986, p. 248). With this definition, social capital iscomposed of two parts; the network of social ties to which a person has access and the resourcesthat flow through that link. The volume of social capital available to any one person is a functionboth of the size of her network and of the resources held by other members of the network.Because the resources may, in some cases, be seen in the present (“actual”) but can also berealized in the future (“potential”), the network is the more tangible part of the definition.Bourdieu clearly conceived of social capital as an attribute of individuals. According toBourdieu, agents devise investment strategies to establish relationships of short- or long-termuse. Individuals invest in social capital as part of a conscious effort to access benefits (Bourdieu1986; Portes 1998). However, agents do not have equal access to all types of capital in Bourdieu’sview. An actor’s social position conditions access to capital. One’s “class of origin” is theprimary determinant of the forms of capital available, but changes in the volume or relativeproportions of different types of capital may shift an individual’s social position and, in turn,the kinds of capital available (Bourdieu 1984, p.111).Like all forms of capital for Bourdieu, social capital takes time to accumulate and hasa tendency to persist. It is also fungible, i.e. it can be converted to other types of capital,particularly economic capital. However, the conversion rates between different forms are notstraightforward or transparent because shifts rarely take place through market exchange. Agiven constellation of capital also has varying effects in different situations. The resources anindividual can access in a given context, or “field” in Bourdieu’s terminology, depends on thevolume of the relevant type of capital she possesses: “It is the specific logic of the field, of what is at stake and of the type of capital needed to play for it, which governs those propertiesthrough which the relationship between class and practice is established” (Bourdieu 1984, p.112-113). A particular type of social capital may therefore have benefits in one situation, butmay have no, or even detrimental effects, for the same individual in a different context wheresuch capital is irrelevant or inappropriate.
1Woolcock (1998) cites Jane Jacobs as probably the earliest scholarly mention of the term in 1961, while Glaeseret al. (2000) claims Henry James used it in one of his novels in the early 1900s. Coleman credited the work of Glenn Loury (1977) who had used social capital to explain racial income inequality, but did not develop it moregenerally.