What looks like an amazing website (and a place in research for social capital)

Yesterday afternoon I discovered the Encyclopaedia of informal eduction. Their entries on community and social capital seem to provide really good overviews and strike a great balance between summary, discussion and moving through.

I have copy and pasted some of the concluding comments from the article on social capital [http://www.infed.org/biblio/social_capital.htm].

‘As Cohen and Prusak (2001: 9) have commented, not everything of value should be called ‘capital’.’

Agreed.

‘Coleman and Putnam do analyse data and material over time – but fail to fully contextualize it.’

Good point. My reading of Coleman has been very limited, but the application of Putnam’s work in mainstream politics seems to rely somewhat on this conception that things are/ have changed in a bad way. I think history is going to be significant in my project, but I think my thoughts around dealing with this have not really moved past reading old reports and somebody’s suggestion to look through really old phone books to get a sense of mobility in, out and around the area.

‘As we saw in the work of Skocpol (2003), Bookman (2004) and others, the way in which women engage and create local networks, and have to manage caring often falls beneath the radar of social capital researchers and theorists.’

Yes, I am guilty of avoiding gender as an issue. However, Mark Peel and Lyn Richard’s books seem to highlight that it is a key consideration and will probably make a strong show in my data especially in regards to who talks about what.

‘Fourth, much of the discussion of social capital has treated it as a ‘good thing’. Bourdieu, at least, was interested in the notion as a way of explaining how some were able to access resources and power, while others were not. However, the scale of local surveillance that can be involved, the possible impacts around what is deemed acceptable behaviour, and the ways in which horizons may be narrowed rather than expanded are not unambiguously ‘good things’.’

Yes, yes, yes! That is what I want to understand, why is it that it is so important for governments to treat it as ‘a good thing’? Is it because it fits well with ideas of personal responsibility/ ‘mutual obligation’ for you only get social capital if you participate?

‘In terms of developing social analysis it might well be that those theorists who have explored individualization and globalization within society (and most particularly Beck 1992, 1999) have something more to offer than social capital theorists. That said, though, some of the empirical work that has been done linking involvement in associational life and participation in social networks to the enhancement of educational achievement, the promotion of health and the reduction of crime is of great significance.’

This is an interesting but not that surprising suggestion, and I agree that social capital needs to be looked at in relation to other concepts. I have become more and more settled on thinking about ‘community’ and ‘social capital’ as schemas (if I can call them that). They are concepts that do have something to do with the real world, but they can be seen as ideologies constructed for strategies of action.

‘Ideologies directly shape the actions of their adherents, and they make history by brining new possibilities for action into being. But their ultimate effects on action are often limited, because wider structural and historical factors determine how ideologies fare against competitors. … In settled lives, in contrast, specific elements of tradition and common sense have relatively weak direct influence over action. People draw on multiple, often competing cultural traditions, and they easily find ways to justify quite varied actions. But culture nonetheless plays an important role. It ingrains, reinforces, and refines the “cultured capacities” – skills, moods, habits, and modes of thought and action – out of which people construct strategies of action. (pg 107 in Swidler 2001Talk of Love)

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