Communication and Social Networks (Fall 2023)/kadushin summary

From CommunityData summary of Kadushin, C. (2012). Networks as Social Capital, in Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding Social Networks. Theories, Concepts and Findings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.[edit]

Social capital refers to the resources and benefits that accrue to individuals and groups through their social networks. The concept has roots in sociological theories about social structure and community, with key early contributions by Bourdieu and Coleman. Social capital exists at both the individual and community level. At the individual level, social capital refers to the resources someone can access through their personal network ties. Measures like the position generator assess the range of occupational statuses an individual can reach. Research shows that those with more diverse networks and ties to higher status occupations tend to have better jobs and social mobility. However, social capital is unevenly distributed, with disadvantaged groups often having access to fewer valuable resources.

At the community level, social capital refers to features of social organization like norms of trust and reciprocity that facilitate collective action. Putnam popularized this notion in Bowling Alone, arguing that declining civic participation has reduced social capital in the U.S. Critics contend his argument involves tautologies. Nonetheless, subsequent research explores associations between community social capital and outcomes like health. For example, counties with more employed in voluntary organizations have lower recurrent heart attack rates, especially for low income residents.

There are debates about the extent to which social capital stems from intentional investment versus structural factors. Problematic analogies are sometimes drawn between social and financial capital. Unlike money, social ties do not function as a universal medium of exchange. Evidence for individuals consciously building networks for future payoffs is limited. Still, social capital remains a useful, if complex construct capturing the benefits embedded in social structure. Ongoing work seeks to refine concepts and measurements, like developing multidimensional approaches differentiating forms of social capital. A key frontier is elucidating cross-level interplay between individual networks and community characteristics. In sum, social capital highlights the value created by social networks, even if extracting that value involves navigating conceptual intricacies.

Study questions and answers:

What are some key concepts in social capital theory?[edit]

Some key concepts are resources accessed through social networks, norms of generalized reciprocity and trust, social capital existing at both individual and community levels, social capital requiring investment versus arising from structural factors.

How is social capital measured at the individual level?[edit]

Social capital at the individual level is often measured using name generators asking people to list contacts who could provide certain resources. It is also measured via position generators assessing the range of occupational statuses someone can reach through their network.

What was Putnam's main argument about social capital in Bowling Alone?[edit]

Putnam argued that the U.S. has experienced declining civic engagement and social capital, seen in decreasing participation in groups and lower social trust. He contends this erosion of community-level social capital has negative effects.

What are some critiques of Putnam's ideas?[edit]

Critiques are that his argument involves tautologies, with social capital outcomes like civic participation also used as indicators of social capital. There is also insufficient evidence that individuals consciously invest in social capital.

How does community-level social capital relate to health outcomes?[edit]

Research finds that areas with more community social capital, such as counties with higher voluntary organization employment, tend to have lower rates of health problems like recurrent heart attacks, especially for disadvantaged residents.

What are some ways social capital differs from financial capital?[edit]

Unlike money, social ties do not function as a universal medium of exchange. There is limited evidence people intentionally build networks for future payoffs like with financial investments. Social capital stems from structural factors beyond individuals' control.

What are some key frontiers in social capital research?[edit]

Key frontiers include elucidating cross-level connections between individual networks and community characteristics, developing multidimensional measurements of social capital, and exploring the interplay between culture and social structure.