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Department of Political Economy: The Third Sector and Public Policy - Essay Example

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The researcher of this essay aims to analyze and explain what is meant by the term ‘Social Capital’. The researcher develops the following research question that need to be answered to affirm the findings: Why is it important to public services?…
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Department of Political Economy: The Third Sector and Public Policy
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Download file to see previous pages The researcher states that social, economic, and political spheres are critical in the wellbeing of society. These three spheres are inextricably linked; that is, the functioning of one sphere greatly relies on that of the other. Generally, public policies are shaped by economic, political, and social actions. The third sectors are critical in public policy as they integrate a wide range of institutions (governmental and non- governmental) into attaining set public policy objectives. Social capital is greatly considered as one of the key ingredient of the Third Sector, and for that matter public policy. It is against this background that it is important to discuss what the term “social capital” means and its importance to public services. The term “social capital” is increasingly become the lexicon of everyday language. This term is getting more popular in public policy even though it is a relatively younger concept in the field of public policy. The term “social capital” is defined in a number of ways. Even though there are different definitions to the term, there are certain aspects that create a point of convergence among all the users of the term. The users of this term agree that any definition of “social capital should include some if not all of the following aspects: connection between individuals; clear distinction between economic and social capital; presence of contradictory and different social processes; involvement of reciprocity and trust principles; non- monetary forms of power and influence; and focus on positive aspects of social life. (Portes, 1998, p. 8-9). So how is “social capital” defined? According to the World Bank (1999), social capital encompasses norms, institutions, and relationships that shape the quantity and quality of interactions within the society. The World Bank’s definition implies that social capital is not simply the sum of institutions, norms and interactions that underpin the society, but rather they are the glue that holds the society together. Also, social capital is defined as the connections among individuals, norms of trustworthiness and reciprocity and social networks that arise from connections among individuals (Putnam 2000, p. 19). From this definition, it can be deduced that social capital requires that civic virtue be embedded in the reciprocal social relations. This is because a society needs connected and virtuous individuals for it to be considered rich in social capital. Bourdieu (1983, p. 249) defines social capital as the aggregate of the potential or actual resources which are connected to possession of a long-lasting network of institutionalized relationships of mutual recognition and acquaintance. From the definitions, it is evidently clear that the term “social capital” cannot be defined entirely in a single definition; there are aspects that may be left out if the term is given a single definition. The definition of this term seem to stem from a basic concern of exploring the processes of ensuring that there is equal access to resources, differentiation of power, and diminishing the essence of creation of elites and class formation. In most cases, the term “social capital” is defined against the term “economic capital”. Actually, there is a belief among many proponents of social capital that the concept seeks to correct the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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