The Theoretical Foundations of the Concept of Social Capital and Their Implications for Educational Empirical Research

Piotr Mikiewicz


In last two “decades” the concept of social capital became one of the most popular in social sciences and far beyond. It is proper to say it is a pervasive metaphor used in sociology as well as in political sciences, economics, history and others. It has become an important tool of social and economic policy of states and international organizations. It seems to have great importance for educational research, firstly because its origin is associated with analyses of functioning of educational institutions and educational performance of pupils, secondly, due to stress given to education as an important factor in creation of social capital. At the same time, however, it is unclear and multidimensional concept, and oft en research carried out with the usage of it, lead to different, also contradictory, outcomes. It seems to be caused by theoretical mess and lack of proper use of social capital concept. It is often forgotten, that social capital originates from two different theoretical backgrounds.

This text is an attempt to indicate these different sources of ideas and the resulting consequences for research practice. In the first part author presents an epistemological perspective, embedded in the neo-pragmatism and constructivism, to emphasize the importance of theory in the investigation. Then a summary of the theoretical roots of social capital in the theory of rational choice of James Coleman and Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural structuralism is presented. In the last part, author presents briefly different hypotheses on education and its relation with social capital derived from different theoretical backgrounds.

Słowa kluczowe

social capital; education; social structure; theory; research; constructivism

Pełny tekst:



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