Social capital: useful but transient

Kizhekepat Sankaran, Catherine Demangeot

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


We first review three major approaches to social capital as proposed by Bourdieu, Coleman and Putnam. For the purpose of a comparative treatment, we characterize their perspectives in terms of how they primarily view it: as “a convertible resource”, as “social rationality” and as “network embedded” respectively. We compare these on their rationales for social capital as a category, where it is located, the analytical forms they adopt, domains of their inquiry and how it relates to other forms of capital. We observe their allusions to the complex properties of social capital and distil their arguments further to present social capital as a complex process that is transient, emergent, non-homogenous and irreversible, contextually rooted and respectful of historicity.
In doing this we make use of how the Austrian school of economics treats capital – as non-homogenous and emergent. It provides us with further conceptual grounding for treating social capital as a complex process, wherein, from an agency perspective, the primacy is on incremental actions which are largely tentative and uncertain of outcomes. We describe some of the recent studies which have begun to treat social capital as the outcome of emergent processes.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Aug 2011
EventAcademy of Management - San Antonio, United States
Duration: 14 Aug 201116 Aug 2011


ConferenceAcademy of Management
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio


  • social capital
  • management


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