‘Social capital describes the networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups’ (OECD, 2001)
I want to put out a call for the rehabilitation of what we understand by ‘social capital’.
Recent criticism of the essential concept of social capital has caused people to cast it aside – considering it a redundant approach. Several influential academics on the left of the political spectrum have written books and articles criticising social capital. Their criticism became particularly virulent at a time when the World Bank formed a social capital strategy in their assistance to developing countries.
In short, the main thrust of the criticism was that the notion of social capital was being used as a substitute for not materially helping populations. Communities were being told that…we know you are poor, downtrodden and disadvantaged but you have ‘social capital’ and you should be using that more.