In recent years there has been a lot of research and interest focused around the social capital theory, evidenced by its application in many different disciplines and numerous subject areas. This interest stems from the appeal of the concept as it integrates sociology and economic and intertwines many ideas including civic trust, civicness and social cohesion. (cited in Claridge 2004 pg6)
From recent studies that was carried out found that social capital has considerable benefits for a range of economic and sociological outcomes. (Claridge 2004)
The term social capital is believed to have been first used by a woman called L.J Hanahan. Since then the term social capital has been popularised by the work of Robert. D Putnam who wrote a book called bowling alone. Where he did some research looking into social capital in America and how social capital was declining in the U.S.A where he outlined several reasons in his book on how it was declining.
Definition of social capital
Putnam defines social capital as a feature of social organisations, such as networks, norms and social trust which arse from both the macro and micro perspective of society, which enable productive outcomes. (Putnam 1995). Whereas Bourdieu describes social capital as “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to a passion of durable networks of more or less institutionalised relationships between mutual acquaintance and recognition”. (cited in bourdieu,1983, pg249). In simpler terms what they are trying to say relationships which are created between individuals who have mutual interest who go out of the way to help each other which builds up trustworthiness, which makes that community a better and safer place while also being able to achieve or get certain things and also having more access to resources.
Woolcock describes social capital as “those tangible substances that count for most in daily lives of people, namely good will, fellowship, sympathy and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit. If a person comes into contact with their neighbour, and they with other neighbours, there will be an accumulation of social capital”. (cited Claridge 2004, pg7) Which will benefit his social needs, while also drastically improving the living conditions in the whole community. (Woolcock et al 2000)
It was also found that communities that had built up a strong stock of social networks and civic associations were in a stronger position to confront poverty and vulnerability (Moser 1999). resolve disputes and take advantage of new opportunities. (Ishan 1999). According to Coleman (1999) argued that people who lived in smaller less marginalised communities could also benefit from social capital.
Concepts of social capital
Over the period of the last fifty years attempts to more thoroughly conceptualize social capital have resulted in many famous sociologists such as Putnam, Bourdieu and Woolock have tried to identify different types and characteristics of social capital. More recently Putnam has come up with the 3 main types of social capital which are.
social bonding is described as more inward looking and exclusive as strong relationships that develop between people with similar interests and backgrounds. Which include friends and social groups who live in the same area, example football clubs or local organisations. When talking about social capital it refers mainly to the community and the norms of reciprocity that is built up between individuals in their community (Claridge 2004).
This type of social capital is more outward- looking and inclusive. It revolves around the relationship between friends of friends, which links them across to people living in different areas, but they have mutual interest which nullifies people across social cleavages. This form of social capital unites people which also enables them to provide access to information that previously they may have not known about. (Gidden 2004)
Linking social capital refers linking disfamiluar groups who originally had no previous connection or who had no form of association with each other this form of social capital helps bring them together which in term can help them to access further resources. E.g. access to jobs or services. (Claridge 2004).
Decline of social capital
Applying it to Ireland