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Social Capital Essay

4100 words - 16 pages

Social Capital
Social capital has gained tremendous popularity in recent years,
driven in large part by the work of James Coleman, Pierre Bourdieu,
and Robert Putaman. This increased attention for social capital is
evident among several research topics, conference papers,
dissertations, and educational journals.

Social capital is the name given to a store of value generated when a
group of individuals invests resources in fostering a body of
relationships with each other (a "social network"). These
relationships, it is argued, create trust by fostering shared norms,
improve contract enforcement by easing information flows, and enhance
sanctions against deviant behavior by facilitating collective action.
Hence the real meaning of social capital is the quality of social
relations. It is the quality of relationships, understood through the
use of the concept “social capital”, which affects the capacity of
people to come together to collectively resolve problems they face in
common (Stewart-Weeks and Richardson, 1998), and achieve outcomes of
mutual benefit (Lochner et al. 1999). Thus, social capital can be
understood as a resource to collective action, which may lead to a
broad range of outcomes, of varying social scale. For individuals,
this can mean access to the reciprocal, trusting social connections
that help the processes of getting by or getting ahead. For
communities, social capital reflects the ability of community members
to participate, cooperate, organise and interact (Cavaye 2001).

The narrowest concept of social capital is associated with Putnam.
Putnam defines social capital as ‘trust, norms and networks’ that
facilitate cooperation for mutual benefit. (Putnam, 1993).

The purpose of this essay is to critically evaluate the role of social
capital in empowering individuals and communities who experience
inequality and discrimination. Emphasis is given on analyzing gender
discrimination in terms of social capital. Analyzing gender
discrimination in terms of social capital can help us understand why
there is inequality of women’s in society.

Social capital as catalysts for change

The early history of the concept of community development and women
activism has its roots in the tradition of democratic localism. In
1920 and 1930 women they were community activists engaged in building
community cohesion and they did not have voting rights and equal
status in the political system. They played critical roles in the
temperance and settlement house movements and brought about
fundamental change in the approach to the problems of poverty.
Particularly the contact with the poor in deteriorated city
neighborhoods led activist women to recognize that the causes of
poverty were social...

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