• conflict;
  • aid policy;
  • peace-building;
  • social capital;
  • Sri Lanka.

This article examines the links between militarised violence and social capital (trans)formation. It first maps out emerging theoretical and policy debates on social capital and violent conflict and questions a number of the assumptions underpinning these debates. This is followed by an empirical analysis of several war-affected communities in Sri Lanka. The case studies illustrate that the links between militarised violence and social capital are complex, dynamic and context specific. It is argued that social capital cannot be understood in isolation from political and economic processes, and the belief that violent conflict inevitably erodes social capital is questioned. Finally, the implications for external agencies are highlighted. Rather than focusing on engineering social capital, external agencies need to focus on understanding better the preconditions for social capital formation and how they can contribute to the creation of an enabling environment. This requires as a starting-point a rigorous analysis of political and economic processes.