The concept of social capital has gained wide currency in recent years in sociology and related areas, including youth studies. Politicians and policy makers have eagerly taken it up, seeing building and enhancing social capital as a solution for diffi cult policy issues, and it has been at the core of Third Way politics. This article provides a general review of social capital, critically examining issues raised by the academic and political use of the concept related to its journey through several academic disciplines, and to its perceived value as a guide to policy. Selected examples of its use in studying the lives and experiences of young people are discussed, as is the extensive research undertaken by myself and colleagues in a fi ve-year multi-project study of families and social capital, focusing on our work on young people.
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