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Day 44 – Q 4.What do you understand by ‘social capital’? Examine its significance for a diverse country like India. Isn’t social capital imperative for development? Examine.

4. What do you understand by ‘social capital’? Examine its significance for a diverse country like India. Isn’t social capital imperative for development? Examine. 

 ‘सामाजिक पूंजीसे आप क्या समझते हैं? भारत जैसे विविध देश के लिए इसके महत्व का परीक्षण करें। क्या विकास के लिए सामाजिक पूंजी अनिवार्य नहीं है? जांच करें।


The term social capital was popularized by Robert Putnam and can be defined as networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups (as per OECD).


Types of social capital:

  • Bonds– Links to people based on a sense of common identity (“people like us”) – such as family, close friends and people who share our culture or ethnicity (homogenous groups). 
  • Bridges: Links that stretch beyond a shared sense of identity, for example to distant friends, colleagues and associates (heterogeneous groups).
  • Linkages: Links to people or groups further up or lower down the social ladder.

Significance and Impotance of social capital:

Social capital has been described as both a glue and lubricant – a glue that holds societies together without which collaboration and cooperation would not be possible; and a lubricant that facilitates getting things done.

  • Civil society– A proactive civil society can take can take up the cause of common people and work towards their welfare, for example HelpAge India NGO working for disadvantaged elderly of India.
  • Women’s organisations– Organisations like Bhartiya Grameen Mahila Sangh, Nirbhaya centres etc, are helping in socio-economic empowerment of women.
  • Self-help groups– Plays an important role in mobilizing the distressed rural populace through entrepreneurship development, promotion of thrift savings etc.
  • Education– Quality of education can be improved by active work of population as social capital, eg. social audit of schools.
  • Health– A good social capital leads to reduced isolation due to urban lifestyle, improved health service delivery among people and helps improve the average mortality rates.
  • Crime prevention– Social capital can act as a security system. It is evident in traditional societies where gram sabha would serve as the judicial authority to take concrete actions like social boycott against criminals or evildoers.
  • Environment– Community based organization preserve the environment and sustain resources. Sacred groves are an excellent example of role of social capital in preservation of environment.
  • Water use and sanitation– The success of Swachh Bharat abhiyan is attributed to a large extent to Swachhagrahis and active participation of gram sabha.
  • Economic development– A good social capital will enhance trade relations among people and nations, thus helping in mutual economic development, for example India’s trade with Bangladesh is better as compared to Pakistan due to better social capital in former case.

Limitations of social capital 

Decay– Social capital does not stay same and needs constant efforts to be maintained or else it decays over time.

Lack of equity– Not everyone has equal access to the social capital, rich or politically powerful have more influence compared to others.

Lack of individuality– Often group and social norms limit the individual growth and personal creativity is stifled by traditions.

Separatism– When bonding social capital is dominant as compared to bridging, the groups develop a notion where it perceives societal and its own interests as exclusive of each other, for example current situation in Jammu & Kashmir.

Personal political gains– If the political institution and democracy in a specific country is not strong enough and it can be overpowered by the social capital groups, for example Jat and Maratha agitation and subsequent reservation. 


Social capital is essential for proper functioning of society, however care must be taken about the capital being present equally in terms of bonding and bridging capital for a harmonious and prosperous society.

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