The embodiment of social capital at individual and communal levels: Action, rewards, inequality, and new directions

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to review the study of social capital focused on the level at which it is embodied, cross-comparing two prominent camps that have emerged in the social capital literature: a communal level and an individual level. Design/methodology/approach: This paper reviews the intersections and departures between communal level and individual level conceptualizations of social capital according to the social dynamics of action within social exchanges that they stimulate, the processes by which social capital is activated/mobilized and the rewards they yield, and their linkages to inequality through network diversity. Findings: This paper articulates new directions for future research in social capital: more analytical precision for studying returns to social capital; more efforts to transcend the individual-communal divide; the depreciation of social capital or tie decay; and recognizing the importance of ties whose value does not come from the ability to provide instrumental gain, but just from their very existence. Originality/value: Social capital has informed many influential agendas in the social sciences, but the sheer volume of which has largely gone unscoped. This paper reviews this literature to provide an accessible introduction to social capital, organized by social processes foundational to sociology and a novel contribution to the literature by articulating new directions for future research in the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-830
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019


  • Inequality
  • Social capital
  • Social dynamics
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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