A paradigm for social capital

Rebecca L. Sandefur, Edward O. Laumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

283 Scopus citations


This paper reconsiders James S. Coleman's concept of social capital. The concept has gained wide use and acceptance in sociology since its first publication, but, Coleman's own writings on the subject remain to date its most extensive analytic treatment. We make two contributions to social capital theory. First, we recast social capital theory to focus on benefits rather than forms. We identify three benefits that forms of social capital may confer: information, influence and control, and social solidarity. In the context of a focus on benefits, we consider how a specific form of social capital may vary in the degree to which its benefits generalize to different kinds of goals, and how forms that are valuable for some purposes may be a liability for other purposes. Second, we emphasize social capital's origin in aspects of social structure that actors may appropriate to use in their interests. We suggest how changes in the social structure of which social capital is an aspect may affect the emergence and persistence of forms of social capital and may condition the value of given forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-501
Number of pages21
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Influence and control
  • Information
  • Social capital
  • Social solidarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'A paradigm for social capital'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this