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Title: Social Capital and Volunteer Behaviour
Author: Bowles, David Bernard
ISNI:       0000 0001 3472 8364
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2008
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The concept ofsocial capital has proved extremely popular, appearing to provide a valuable analytical tool to investigate contemporary social relations, particularly the perceived decline in social and civic engagemenL This thesis compares Robert Putnam's widely acclaimed work on social capital with that ofPierre Bourdieu. Unlike Putnam's 'public good' model, Bourdieu's concept ofsocial capital cannot be considered in isolation from his overall theoretical approach involving economic, cultural, social and symbolic capitals, and the concepts ofhabitus and field. In contrasting these theories a class-based approach is adopted, comparing the activities ofthe volunteers from two similar day centres for older people. Valley is set in an aflluent rural setting, while Northbury is located in a working class town. Participant observation was carried out while working as a volunteer at each of these locations. The participant observation is used to compare the two Centres as case studies and then uses Bourdieu's concepts to explore the differences between them. The comparison is argued to help look at the way social capital, in Bourdieu's formulation, can be a useful heuristic tool when looking at such volunteer behaviour. The implication is that Putnam's more popular version of social capital neglects class differences, ignoring the reality ofliving within classdivided contemporary society. The popularity ofPutnam's thesis lies not in its explanatory power, but rather in its normative call to reinvigorate 'community' through individual civic reengagement. This theoretical position fits very well with a social policy discourse that is keen to play down class differences and encourage individual responsibility for care. Bourdieu's theoretical approach is complex, but it at least provides the tools for a more realistic investigation of social capital, avoiding the sterile Third Way debates of 'community' which neglect the underlying causes ofsocial disconnectedness, particularly class inequalities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available