Social Capital Paradigm

Social Capital Paradigm Interest Group

Our interest group will work on the theory and definition of social capital to help improve the research and application of the concept. By outlining a paradigm for social capital, it will be easier for researchers and practitioners to implement and evaluate quality scholarship, thereby improving precision and comparability, and therefore, the explanatory and transformative potential of the concept for the benefit of everyone. 

This group can take steps towards reaching some consensus on social capital that may guide scholarship and may provide the foundation for the development of agreed standards, theories, models, and assumptions.

If you are interested in joining this interest group, contact Tristan Claridge by email at

Everyone is welcome, and you do not need to be a member of ISCA to participate. If you are interested in the theory and definition of social capital and you want to collaboratively work to progress the concept, get in touch now.

Why establish the social capital paradigm?

The variety of interpretations in the literature has mired the theories of social capital, making it difficult to draw comparisons or foster collaborative research. To date, engaging in meaningful conversations about social capital has been a challenging task. It has been difficult to make sense of the theory, design quality research, or apply the concept to meaningful practical applications. This not only hampers the accumulation of knowledge but also undermines the concept’s potential for transformative impact.

An outline of the paradigm:

  • Is not intended to preference or exclude any reasonable theories.
  • Is not intended to limit explanations of social capital and its outcomes.
  • Is not an attempt to create an operational definition of social capital.
  • However, it will encourage theory building, exploration of causality, clarity of models, connection to theoretical foundations, examination of assumptions, etc.

As Castle (2002, p336) warned, “Without more sharply focused conceptual and theoretical development, the various contributions to the field will not effectively build a coherent body of knowledge”.

How does defining the paradigm help?

  • It broadly clarifies what social capital is and what it does with logical consistency.
  • Help to avoid truisms, tautologies, and various inconsistencies and incongruences.
  • Allow scholars to create appropriate operational definitions of social capital that are linked to theory, logically consistent, and explicit about what it is relative to what it does.
  • Facilitate the development of discipline- or application-specific definitional and conceptual approaches to social capital that are consistent with the paradigm.
  • Helps scholars and practitioners to see how different perspectives relate to each other in complementary rather than conflicting ways.
  • Open possibilities for comparisons between studies and the opportunity to progress social capital theory to the mature Kuhnian phase of science.
  • Improve the explanatory and transformative potential of the concept by improving scholarship.

Watch the Webinar

This webinar sketches an outline for the social capital paradigm by identifying the common themes and underlying similarities between different meanings of social capital. It proposes a consistent logic schema for social capital and ten “pillars” of the paradigm; statements that are broadly true and generally applicable to any interpretation of social capital. This will allow researchers and practitioners to more easily see how different perspectives relate to each other in complementary rather than conflicting ways, thereby improving the possibilities for discourse between scholars and comparisons between studies.

The problem

The lack of a social capital paradigm has led to the current problem – particularly the difficulty of understanding what is good “science” in social capital research. The onus of undertaking good science falls to scholars and to peer-reviewers who do not have established frameworks for evaluation. While many social capital scholars have produced good research, many others have not, and the literature has plentiful examples of poor scholarship.

Progressing the paradigm will help everyone, including researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and anyone who is interested in the concept of social capital.

If you are interested in joining this interest group, contact Tristan Claridge by email at

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