Social capital as social relations: the contribution of normative structures

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Abstract

This paper presents a framework for social capital that highlights the normative structures through which it is manifested. The primary focus is on the ways that norms structure the relationships in which social capital is embedded. To this end, we introduce four types of normative structures which condition social capital: market, bureaucratic, associative, and communal. A field site in Japan is used to illustrate how different aspects of social capital interact. This case analysis also serves to make an important distinction between the availability and use of social capital. The central arguments are that 1) social capital is organized in different ways by the normative structures in which it is embedded; 2) there are important interactions between these different aspects of social capital that are often overlooked by simpler frameworks; 3) a useful distinction can be made between available social capital and used social capital; 4) access to social capital can be used to analyze power relations; and 5) distinguishing different aspects of social capital makes areas visible that are overlooked by other understandings of social capital. We conclude by identifying the utility of our perspective for informing public policy and guiding future research.

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