Hawe 2000 - "Social capital and health promotion: a review"

Penelope Hawe, Alan Shiell
"Social capital and health promotion: a review"
Social Science & Medicine    
September 2000; v51, n6, pp 871-885
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This is a somewhat interesting perspective on the history of social capital. Written from a social science perspective it provides a different and broader context for social capital theory than the other scientific studies reviewed here. It also treats the metaphorical and rhetorical dimensions of the language of social capital.

The authors also briefly review the scientific literature on the relationship between social capital (and income inequality) and health. While the review is not as comprehensive or detailed as other studies reviewed here, it is clearly written and pithy, making it a handy reference.

Perhaps most importantly, the authors question some of the assumptions of the empirical studies of social capital. They point out, for instance, that simply counting the number of civic associations is not necessarily a reasonable way to calculate social capital. What really matters is "availability" and "adequacy" of social attachments, which may or may not be correlated to raw quantity.

They also draw attention the the body of sociological research on human relations that constitute more sophisticated and comprehensive measurements of social capital that the relatively simplistic models used by, say, Kawachi.  While the authors may have a point, it is of limited use to this review. Empirical studies of social capital and health are relatively limited at this point in time. Perhaps the analyses could be more sophisticated and draw more heavily on sociological studies, but it is unclear whether this would yield greater understanding of the link, if any, between social capital and health. 


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