The concept of 'social capital' is currently the focus of anexplosion of interest in the research and policy community. Itrefers to the social networks, informal structures and norms thatfacilitate individual and collective action. This explosion ofinterest is driven by a growing body of evidence that socialcapital has enormous effects on economic growth, health, crime andeven the effectiveness and functioning of governments.
David Halpern provides a guide through the many and sometimesconfusing definitions of social capital. The various literaturesexamining the empirical consequences of social capital are broughttogether from across academic disciplines to demonstrate aremarkable range of effects. A model is then presented to accountfor the causal pathways that create social capital, and that leadfrom social capital to its outcomes. International evidence is usedto establish whether social capital is on the decline, and thethorny question of whether social capital can harm or exclude isalso examined. Finally, the policy implications are considered,including how social capital can be measured, created andutilized.
Social Capital offers an overview of one of the mostimportant and exciting areas to emerge out of the social sciencesin many years. It assumes no previous knowledge of the literatureor statistics, and will be of interest to students and researchersin politics, sociology, social administration and social psychologyand to the general reader interested in finding out more about howsocial capital affects all our lives.