chapter  5
20 Pages

The relevance of social capital to understanding decision-making in networks

ByAlison Fuller

In a competitive labour market situation, people who choose to pursue further and higher levels of education are seen to be making rational decisions to invest in their human capital in the expectation that this behaviour will be rewarded through higher wages and ‘better’ jobs. However, as John Field (2005) has pointed out, there are limitations in the extent to which the decision to participate in lifelong learning can be explained solely in economic terms. Led by the work of social theorists such as Bourdieu (1986), Coleman (1988) and Putnam (2000), the role of social and cultural factors is increasingly seen as integral to an understanding of the education and career trajectories of diverse social groups. The route to success is not always, and for all groups, framed in terms of progression ever higher up the educational and qualification ladder. Other destinations may be equally or more valued within certain communities, neighbourhoods or families who have different status-seeking traditions and criteria for judging the success of their members or offspring.