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Promoting social capital in a 'risk society': A new approach to emancipatory learning or a new moral authoritarianism?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kathryn Ecclestone


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Social capital theory has been widely debated across the social sciences. Its core idea is that relationships and norms have a value, in that they enable individuals and groups to co-operate for mutual benefit. The role of social capital appears to be changing in the context of the self-aware reflexivity that characterises contemporary 'risk society'. This paper takes the form of a dialogue between the two authors: the first defends the concept's analytical value while taking an agnostic view of its significance for policy, while the second author raises concerns over the normative implications of current interest in social capital and identifies its connection with authoritarian as well as liberal-humanistic policy responses. The paper concludes with reflections on the value of social capital in academic milieus, combined with an analysis of the implications of this discussion for future research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ecclestone K, Field J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Sociology of Education

Year: 2003

Volume: 24

Issue: 3

Pages: 267-282

Print publication date: 01/07/2003

ISSN (print): 0142-5692

ISSN (electronic): 1465-3346


DOI: 10.1080/01425690301895