Essay on Social Capital : A Unified Definition
While there is not widespread agreement regarding a unified definition for this concept, certain themes have emerged consistently. For example, Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2007) call social capital an “elastic” concept, drawing upon thoughts from Bourdieu and Wacquant, Paxton, and Putnam to broadly define social capital as the resources a person accumulates through networking with others, which allow him to capitalize on information and relationships for personal use or gain. Coleman asserts that no matter how social capital is defined, it must “consist of some aspect of social structures, and…facilitate certain action of actors—whether persons or corporate actors—within the structure” (Portes, p. 46). Putnam asserts that social capital is dependent on “social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (Putnam, p.19). Williams (2006) describes social capital in economic terms—comparing it to financial capital in that using it generates more capital; however, instead of trading in financial goods and services, one is trading in personal relationships. He observes that some researchers have asserted that social capital is not actually an outcome but a process through which relationships and influence are built; however, he argues that such a perspective creates challenges for the researcher who is intent on measuring outcomes.
Two Types of Social Capital
Social capital theory is wide-ranging and oftentimes emphasizes…