social capital [English]

Syndetic Relationships

InterPARES Definition

n. ~ Intangible assets such as trust, goodwill, and collective benefits realized by individuals' participation in and respect for the norms of social networks.

Other Definitions

  • Wikipedia (†387 s.v. social capital): The expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasize different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea "that social networks have value" [Putnam, 2000].


  • Chappell and Funk, 2010 (†466 358): “Very generally, it could be said that social capital... integrates social participation with trust; in fact, the most common measures of social capital are membership in informal and formal groups.” (†661)
  • Fukuyama, 2002 (†470 23): “According to sociologist James Coleman, social capital refers to people's ability to work together in groups. I prefer to define the concept more broadly to include any instance in which people cooperate for common ends on the basis of shared informal norms and values. Furthermore, many now regard social capital as a key ingredient in both economic development and stable liberal democracy.” (†665)
  • Killerby, 2005. (†467 4): “Social capital is a latent form of collective action, an intangible stock of norms and networks that defines the limits of cooperation in a society, community or group. Many policy makers view social capital as a fundamental tool for promoting community wellbeing and sustainable development." (†662)
  • Kurian 2013 (†576 s.v. social capital): Cumulative social skills of employees considered as a company asset, enhancing teamwork, encouraging democratic decision making, and helping develop a sense of community. (†1083)
  • Law 2011 (†581 s.v. social capital): The asset to an organization produced by the cumulative social skills of its employees. Social capital, like intellectual and emotional capital, is intangible and resides in the employees of the organization. It is a form of capital produced by good interpersonal skills (see interpersonal communication), which can be considered an asset as they are an important factor in organizational success. Key components of social capital include trust; a sense of community and belonging; unrestricted and participative communication; democratic decision making; and a sense of collective responsibility. Evidence of social capital can be seen, for example, in trust relationships, in the establishment of effective personal networks, in efficient teamwork, and in an organization's exercise of social responsibility. (†1116)
  • OECD 2007 (†896 p. 102): Author Lyda Hanifan referred to social capital as “those tangible assets [that] count for most in the daily lives of people: namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit”. ¶ That gives some sense of what’s meant by social capital, although today it would be hard to come up with a single definition that satisfied everyone. For the sake of simplicity, however, we can think of social capital as the links, shared values and understandings in society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and so work together. (†2693)
  • OECD 2007 (†896 p. 103): Social capital is defined by the OECD as “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups”. In this definition, we can think of networks as real-world links between groups or individuals. Think of networks of friends, family networks, networks of former colleagues, and so on. Our shared norms, values and understandings are less concrete than our social networks. Sociologists sometimes speak of norms as society’s unspoken and largely unquestioned rules. Norms and understandings may not become apparent until they’re broken. If adults attack a child, for example, they breach the norms that protect children from harm. Values may be more open to question; indeed societies often debate whether their values are changing. And yet values – such as respect for people’s safety and security – are an essential linchpin in every social group. Put together, these networks and understandings engender trust and so enable people to work together. (†2694)
  • Putnam, 1995 (†468 67): “By analogy with notions of physical capital and human capital--tools and training that enhance individual productivity--"social capital" refers to features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.” (†663)
  • Woolcock, 1998 (†469 153): “…generally defined as the information, trust, and norms of reciprocity inhering in one's social networks – …” (†664)