Building a Network Theory of Soci...
CONNECTIONS 22(1) :28-51 ��1999 I NSNA Building a Network Theory of Social Capital' Nan Lin Dept. of Sociology, Duke University INTRODUCTION In the past two decades, social capital in its various forms and contexts has emerged as one of the most salient concepts in social sciences. While much excitement has been generated, divergent views, perspectives, and expectations have also raised the serious question: is it a fad or does it have enduring qualities that will herald a new intellectual enterprise? This presentation's purpose is to review social capital as discussed in the literature, identify controversies and debates, consider some critical issues, and propose conceptual and research strategies in building a theory. I will argue that such a theory and the research enterprise must be based on the fundamental understanding that social capital is captured from embedded resources in social networks . Deviations from this understanding in conceptualization and measurement lead to confusion in analyzing causal mechanisms in the macro- and micro- processes. It is precisely these mechanisms and processes, essential for an interactive theory about structure and action, to which social capital promises to make contributions . The paper will begin by exploring the nature of capital and various theories of capital, so that social capital can be properly perceived and located . It will then identify certain controversies which, unless clarified or resolved, will hinder the development of a theory and the research enterprise. By considering social capital as assets in networks, the paper will discuss some issues in conceptualizations, measurements, and causal mechanisms (the factors leading to inequality of social capital and the returns following investments in social capital) . A proposed model will follow . The paper will conclude by calling attention to the rise of a new form of social capital, cybernetworks, and briefly suggesting how research on this topic promises to make important contributions to the research enterprise . WHAT IS CAPITAL? The notion of capital can be traced to Marx (1933/1849 1995Brewer, 1984). In his conceptualization, capital is part of the surplus value captured by capitalists or the bourgeoisie, who control production means, in the circulations of commodities and monies between the production and consumption processes . In these circulations, laborers are paid for their labor (commodity) with a wage allowing them to purchase commodities (such as food, 'An earlier version of this paper was presented as the Keynote Address at the XIX International Sunbelt Social Network Conference, Charleston, South Carolina, February 18-21,1999 . Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building a Theory of Social Capital / Lin 29 shelter, and clothing) to sustain their lives (exchange value) . But the commodity processed and produced by the capitalists can be circulated to and sold in the consumption market at a higher price (user value) . In this scheme of the capitalist society, capital represents two related but distinct elements . On the one hand, it is part of the surplus value generated and pocketed by the capitalists (and their "misers," presumably the traders and sellers) . On the other hand, it represents an investment (in the production and circulation of commodities) on the part of the capitalists, with expected returns in a marketplace . Capital, as part of the surplus value, is a product of a process whereas capital is also an investment process in which the surplus value is produced and captured. It is also understood that the investment and its produced surplus value are in reference to a return/reproduction of the process of investment and of more surplus values. It is the dominant class that makes the investment and captures the surplus value . Thus, it is a theory based on the exploitative social relations between two classes . I call Marx's theory of capital the classical theory of capital . Subsequent theoretical modifications and refinements have retained the basic elements of capital in the classical theory, as represented in Table 1 . Fundamentally, capital remains a surplus value and represents an investment with expected returns . Human capital theory (Johnson, 1960 Schultz, 1961 Becker, 1964/1993), for example, also conceives capital as investment (e.g., in education) with certain expected returns (earnings) . Individual workers invest in technical skills and knowledge so that they can negotiate with those in control of the production process (firms and their agents) for payment of their labor-skill. This payment has value that may be more than what the purchase of subsisting commodities would require and, thus, contain surplus values which in part can be spent for leisure and lifestyle needs and in part turned into capital . Likewise, cultural capital, as described by Bourdieu (Bourdieu, 1990 Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977), represents investments on the part of the dominant class in reproducing a set of symbols and meanings, which are misrecognized and internalized by the dominated class as their own . The investment, in this theory, is in the pedagogic actions of the reproduction process, such as education, the purpose of which is to indoctrinate the masses to internalize the values of these symbols and meanings. Cultural capital theory also acknowledges that the masses (the dominated class) can invest and acquire these symbols and meanings, even if they misrecognize them as their own. The inference is that while cultural capital is mostly captured by the dominant class through inter-generation transmissions, even the masses (or at least some of them) may generate returns from such investment and acquisition . However, these theories break significantly from the classical theory . That is, because the laborers, workers or masses can now invest, and thus acquire certain capital of their own (be they skills and knowledge in the case of human capital, or "misrecognized" but nevertheless internalized symbols and meanings), they (or some of them) can now generate surplus values in trading their labor or work in the production and consumption markets . The social relations between classes (capitalists and non-capitalists) become blurred . The image of the social structure is modified from one of dichotomized antagonistic struggle to one of layered or stratified negotiating discourses . I call these the neo-capitalist theories . The distinctive feature
30 Theorist Marx I Explanation Social relations : ,Exploitation by the capitalists (bourgeoise) of the proletariat Capital A. Part of surplus value between the use value (in consumption market) and the exchange value (in production-labor market) of the commodity. B. Investment in the pro- duction and circulation of commodities i Level of Structural (classes) I Analysis Building a Theory of Social Capital / Lin of these theories resides in the potential investment and capture of surplus value by the laborers or masses. Social capital, I argue, is another form of the neo-capital theories .' Schultz, Becker I Accumulation ', Reproduction of Access to and of surplus value i dominant symbols use of resources by laborer and meanings embedded in (values) social networks Investment in technical skills and knowledge Individual WHY DOES SOCIAL CAPITAL WORK? The premise behind the notion of social capital is rather simple and straightforward : investment in social relations with expected returns . This general definition is consistent with various Bourdieu Lin, Burt, Bourdieu, Marsden, Flap, Coleman, Coleman Putnam Internalization or Investment in misrecognition of social networks dominant values Individual/class Individual Solidarity and reproduction of group Investment j in mutual recognition and acknowledgment', I Group/ individual 2 There is some ambiguity in Bourdieu 's writings as to whether cultural capital should be seen as a structural theory or a theory which allows choice actions . He (Bourdieu, 1990 Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) defines culture as a system of symbolism and meaning (Jenkins 1992, p. 104). The dominant class in the society imposes its culture by engaging in pedagogic action (e.g., education), which internalizes the dominant symbols and meanings in the next generation, thus reproducing the salience of the dominant culture . The result is an internalized and durable training, habitus, in the reproduction of the culture. The mass is not cognitively aware of the imposition and takes on the imposed culture as their own - misrecognition. This rendition of capital can trace its lineage to Marx . The social relations described by Marx are also assumed there is a class, capitalists, who control the means of production - the process of pedagogic action or the educational institutions (in the homes, in schools, etc .). In the production (schooling) process, laborers (students or children) invest in the educational process and internalize the dominant class culture. Acquisition of this culture permits or licenses the laborers to enter the labor market, earn payments and sustain expenditures for their lives . The capitalists, or the dominant class, gain cultural capital which supplement their economic capital and accumulate capital of both types in the circulation of the commodities (educated mass) and the domination of the means of production (the educational institutions) . However, there is a break from Marx and an important one . Bourdieu does not assume perfect correspondence between the accumulation of economic capital and cultural capital. Some economic capitalists do not possess cultural capital and some cultural capitalists are not economically endowed . This less than perfect correspondence would seem to open the possible path for some of the laborers, using their cultural habitus, to gain a foothold in the dominant class . It is conceivable that they become part of the educational institutions and gain returns in the labor market, due to their cultural capital . Bourdieu did not carry his analysis this far, but seems to leave open the process of social mobility and the possibility of agency . Table 1. Theories of Capital The The Neo-Capital Theories Classical Human Cultural I Social Theory j Capital Capital Capital