Social Capital

This research project uses the following definition: The norms and networks that facilitate collective action (Woolcock 2001), focusing on the relationships within and between them (Schuler 2001).

Other definitions of social capital:

  1. Bourdieu (1985:248) first defined social capital as "the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more of less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition". Further, he argued that social networks are not a natural given and must be constructed through investment strategies oriented to the institutionalization of group relations, usable as a reliable source of benefits (Portes 1998).
  2. Coleman (1988: 98) defines social capital by its function as "a variety of entities with two elements in common: they consist of some aspect of social structures, and they facilitate certain action of actors-whether persons or corporate actors-within the structure".
  3. Schiff (1992: 161) views social capital as "the set of elements of the social structure that affects relations among people and are inputs or arguments of the production and/or utility function".
  4. Putnam (1993: 167) defines social capital as "those features of social organization, such as trust, norms and networks that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions".
  5. Fukuyama (1999: 1) defines social capital as "an instantiated informal norm that promotes cooperation between two or more individuals".

The consensus is growing in the literature that social capital stands for the ability of actors to secure benefits by virtue of membership in social networks or other social structures (Portes 1998). Many analysts have emphasized the centrality of two factors to social capital: trust and social networks (Portes 1998; Putnam 1993; Woolcock 1998; Fukuyama 1995).

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is defined as a process of reconciliation of three imperatives:

  1. the ecological imperative to live within global biophysical carrying capacity and maintain biodiversity;
  2. the social imperative to ensure the development of democratic systems of governance to effectively propagate and sustain the values that people wish to live by; and
  3. the economic imperative to ensure that basic needs are met worldwide.

And equitable access to resources - ecological, social and economic - is fundamental to its implementation. (Dale 2001)


Bourdieu, P. 1985. The forms of capital. In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. JG Richardson. New York: Greenwood, pp. 241-58 Coleman, J. 1988. Social capital in the creation of human capital. In American Journal of Sociology, 94: 95-120 Dale, A. 2001. At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century. Vancouver: UBC Press Fukuyama, F. 1999. Social Capital and Civil Society. Delivered at the IMF Conference on Second Generation Reforms Fukyama, F. 1995. Trust: the Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. London: Peguin Portes, Alejandro. 1998. Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Rev. Sociol. 24: 1-24 Putman, R. 1995. Bowling alone: America's declining social capital. In Journal of Democracy, 6(1): 65-78 Putnam, R. 1993. The prosperous community: social capital and public life. In The American Prospect. 13:35-42 Schiff M. 1992. Social capital, labor mobility, and welfare. Rationality and Society. 4:157-75 Woolcock, M. 2000. Why should we care about social capital? In Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration, 98: 17-19 Woolcock, M. 1998. Social Capital and Economic Development: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis and Policy Framework. In Theory and Society, 27:151-208