Social exclusion and social capital: A comparison and critique

Mary Daly, H. Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Social exclusion and social capital are widely used concepts with multiple and ambiguous definitions. Their meanings and indicators partially overlap, and thus they are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the inter-relations of economy and society. Both ideas could benefit from further specification and differentiation. The causes of social exclusion and the consequences of social capital have received the fullest elaboration, to the relative neglect of the outcomes of social exclusion and the genesis of social capital. This article identifies the similarities and differences between social exclusion and social capital. We compare the intellectual histories and theoretical orientations of each term, their empirical manifestations and their place in public policy. The article then moves on to elucidate further each set of ideas. A central argument is that the conflation of these notions partly emerges from a shared theoretical tradition, but also from insufficient theorizing of the processes in which each phenomenon is implicated. A number of suggestions are made for sharpening their explanatory focus, in particular better differentiating between cause and consequence, contextualizing social relations and social networks, and subjecting the policy 'solutions' that follow from each perspective to critical scrutiny. Placing the two in dialogue is beneficial for the further development of each.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-566
Number of pages30
JournalTheory and Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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