Advertisement

Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 185–199 | Cite as

Function and Functional Explanation in Social Capital Theory: A Philosophical Appraisal

  • John Vorhaus
Article

Abstract

Social capital is frequently offered up as a variable to explain such educational outcomes as academic attainment, drop-out rates and cognitive development. Yet, despite its popularity amongst social scientists, social capital theory remains the object of some scepticism, particularly in respect of its explanatory ambitions. I provide an account of some explanatory options available to social capital theorists, focussing on the functions ascribed to social capital and on how these are used as explanatory variables in educational theory. Two of the most influential writers in this field are Coleman and Bourdieu. I explore their commonalities and differences, both in respect of their writing and in respect of some of the many theorists they have influenced. I argue that social capital theorists have made substantial progress in responding to sceptically minded critics, but that significant questions remain, especially about the success of the more ambitious explanatory variants as these apply to educational outcomes—functional explanation in particular. Functional explanation, and its association with Bourdieu, is discussed in ‘Bourdieu and functional explanation’; thereafter I discuss the more modest ambition of identifying the functions associated with social capital. In ‘Coleman, intergenerational closure and educational outcomes’ I show how Coleman provides resources for revealing how social structure features in social explanation in an educational context, and in ‘Inequality, class and ethnicity’ I suggest that some of the questions raised in his account are most satisfactorily responded to by educational theorists who adopt Bourdieu’s emphasis on social class and inequality.

Keywords

Social capital Functions Explanation Inequality Social class Ethnicity 

References

  1. Allard, A. (2005). Capitalizing on Bourdieu: How useful are concepts of ‘social capital’ and ‘social field’ for researching ‘marginalized’ young women? Theory and Research in Education, 3(1), 63–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arrow, K. (2000). Observations on social capital. In P. Dasgupta & I. Serageldin (Eds.), Social capital: A multifaceted perspective (pp. 3–5). Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  3. Bankston, C. (2004). Social capital, cultural values, immigration, and academic achievement: The host country context and contradictory consequences. Sociology of Education, 77, 176–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baron, S., Field, J., & Schuller, T. (2000). Social capital. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P. (1980). Le capital social: Notes provisoires. Actes de la Réchere en Sciences Sociales, 31, 2–3.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Carbonaro, W. (1998). A little help from my friend’s parents: Intergenerational closure and educational outcomes. Sociology of Education, 71, 295–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, G. A. (1978). Karl Marx’s theory of history. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, G. A. (1986). Forces and relations of production. In J. Roemer (Ed.), Analytical marxism (pp. 11–22). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 95–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coleman, J. (1990). The foundations of social theory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dasgupta, P., & Serageldin, I. (2000). Social capital: A multifaceted perspective. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  15. Dika, S., & Singh, K. (2002). Applications of social capital in educational literature: A critical synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 72(1), 31–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elster, J. (2007). Explaining social behaviour. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Field, J. (2005). Social capital and lifelong learning. Bristol: The Polity Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Flap, H., Hendrik, D., & De Graff, N. D. (1989). Social capital and attained occupational status. Netherlands Journal of Sociology, 22, 145–161.Google Scholar
  19. Fuchs, C. (2003). Some implications of Pierre Bourdieu’s works for a theory of social self-organization. European Journal of Social Theory, 6(4), 387–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grenfell, M. (2009). Applying Bourdieu’s field theory: The case of social capital and education. Education, Knowledge and Economy, 3(1), 17–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holland, J. (2006). Fragmented youth: Social capital in biographical context in young people’s lives. In R. Edwards, J. Franklin, & J. Holland (Eds.), Assessing social capital: Concept, policy and practice (pp. 163–177). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press.Google Scholar
  22. Horvat, E., Weinginger, E., & Lareau, A. (2003). From Social ties to social capital: Class differences in the relation between schools and parent networks. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 319–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kao, G. (2004). Social capital and its relevance to minority and immigrant populations. Sociology of Education, 77, 172–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee, M. (2010). Researching social capital in education: Some conceptual considerations relating to the contribution of network analysis. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 31(6), 779–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lin, N. (2001). Social capital. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McLanahan, S., & Sandefur, G. (1994). Growing up with a single parent: What hurts and what helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Noguera, P. A. (2004). Social capital and the education of immigrant students: Categories and generalizations. Sociology of Education, 77, 172–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern society. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Putnam, R. (1996). Who killed civic America. Prospect, March, 6, 66–72. Google Scholar
  30. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  31. Ream, R. (2005). Uprooting children: Mobility, social capital and Mexican American underachievement. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC.Google Scholar
  32. Ream, K., & Palardy, G. (2008). Reexamining social class differences in the availability and the educational utility of parental social capital. American Educational Research Journal, 45(2), 238–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schuller, T., Baron, S., & Field, J. (2000). Social capital: A review and critique. In S. Baron, J. Field, & T. Schuller (Eds.), Social capital: Critical perspectives (pp. 1–38). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Solow, R. (1999). Notes on social capital and economic performance. In P. Dasgupta & I. Serageldin (Eds.), Social capital: A multifaceted perspective (pp. 6–12). Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  35. Stack, C. (1974). All our kin. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  36. Stanton-Salazar, R. (1997). A social capital framework for understanding the socialization of racial minority children and youths. Harvard Educational Review, 67(1), 1–40.Google Scholar
  37. Stanton-Salazar, R. D. (2001). Manufacturing hope and despair: The school and kin support networks of US-Mexican youth. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  38. Teachman, J. D., Paasch, K., & Carver, K. (1997). Social capital in the generation of human capital. Social Forces, 75, 1343–1359.Google Scholar
  39. Thapar-Bjokert, S., & Sanghera, G. S. (2010). Building social capital and education: The experiences of Pakistani Muslims in the UK. International Journal of Social Inquiry, 3(2), 3–25.Google Scholar
  40. Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling: US-Mexican youth and the politics of caring. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  41. Vorhaus, J. (forthcoming). Education, social capital and the accordion effect. Journal of Philosophy of Education. Google Scholar
  42. Winch, C. (2000). Education, work and social capital. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Woolcock, M. (1998). Social capital and economic development: Toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. Theory and Society, 27, 151–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zhou, M., & Bankston, C. L. (1996). Social capital and the adaptation of the second generation: The case of Vietnamese youth in New Orleans. In A. Portes (Ed.), The new second generation (pp. 197–220). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  45. Zhou, M., & Bankston, C. L. (1998). Growing up American: How Vietnamese children adapt to life in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations