Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Last Thoughts on Social Capital (for now)

Even the past few weeks I have been examining a range of criticisms of social capital and I think the eight criticisms posted has demonstrated that concept of social capital has a number of serious weaknesses. The nature of its weakness is not that it is based on fallacious interpretations or incorrect descriptions but rather that it produces descriptions that retain unresolved tensions. Though perhaps like suspension bridges, such tensions are responsible for the concept’s strengths, indeed, Schuller, Baron and Field (2000) argue that weaknesses such as its definitional diversity and extreme versatility can in some contexts become strengths (Schuller, Baron and Field 2000: 24-25). They conclude that the concept is a useful heuristic and can help, in particular, in reinserting value into social science discourse, overcome disciplinary boundaries and provide a link between the micro, meso and macro levels of analysis. While these assertions are supported with some examples of empirical research, such claims are still rather vague and apply equally to social networks explanations, which at least have the benefits of clearer methods of analysis.

An earlier post began with a quote from Adler and Kwon, and it would be unfair to these authors not to mention that they concluded their review of the concept with a note of caution:
There does not, as yet, seem to be anything resembling a rigorous theory or metatheory that can incorporate the strengths of the existing, competing theories and transcend their respective limitations (Adler and Kwom 2002: 34)