The myth of social capital in community development

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316 Scopus citations


This article argues that contemporary interest in social capital by community development theorists, funders, and practitioners is misguided and needs to be thoroughly rethought. It argues that social capital, as understood by Robert Putnam and people influenced by his work, is a fundamentally flawed concept because it fails to understand issues of power in the production of communities and because it is divorced from economic capital. Therefore, community development practice based on this understanding of social capital is, and will continue to be, similarly flawed. The article further argues that instead of Putnam's understanding of social capital, community development practice would be better served by returning to the way the concept was used by Glenn Loury and Pierre Bourdieu and concludes with a discussion of how these alternative theories of social capital can be realized in community development practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-806
Number of pages26
JournalHousing Policy Debate
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Development/revitalization
  • Urban environment


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