chapter  7
18 Pages

‘A continuous effort of sociability’

Learning and social capital in adult life
ByJohn Preston

Previous chapters have been concerned with the influence of learning on the individual and their familial relations. The next two chapters turn our attention towards the social benefits of learning in terms of effects on social capital and wider issues of values. I begin by critically examining the notion of social capital, which has achieved a high profile both for integration into social theory and its impact upon policy-makers. Our qualitative research allows us to explore how different forms of learning influence various forms of social capital in the context of individual biographies. I show how learning has impacts on the qualitative, as well as the structural, characteristics of individuals’ social networks, and how the influence of learning on social capital is contingent upon access to other forms of capital, including cultural capital. The structural components of social capital, interpreted as social networks and civic participation, are complemented by the normative components of tolerance and trust. Individual biographies reveal the complexity of processes of value formation which do not fit neatly into functionalist educational theory. The influence of learning on value formation, at least through adult education, is often transmitted through processes of value conflict and challenge as much as consensus.