Social Capital and Subjective Quality of Life

Social Capital and Subjective Quality of Life

Monika Mularska-Kucharek (University of Lodz, Poland)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3946-9.ch009


This chapter describes how in recent decades, the concepts of social capital and quality of life have attracted the interest of both theoreticians and creators of social life. Both on the micro-, meso- and macrosocial levels, social capital has been viewed as one of the key elements of human well-being. Its positive influence on social well-being has been underlined by academics, practitioners of social life. In this chapter, the authors evaluate the relationship between social capital and the mental well-being of individuals. Through empirical analysis, the results of a representative research conducted among residents of one of the biggest Polish cities were examined. This concludes that social capital and social interaction are essential to the health of the individual.
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Theoretical Background

The term “social capital” is ubiquitous in contemporary sociology. Its appeal rests, in part, on its capacity to stir in sociologists a renewed sense of the significance for collective action of social relations (Messner et al., 2004, p. 882).

Social capital is viewed as a set of resources created during the process of interaction which individuals have at their disposal in a given social situation (Halpern, 2005). Like any other type of capital, this value brings certain profits. If present, social capital may facilitate the production of individual and communal goods (Paxton, 2002). In Coleman’s words (1990, p. 304), „social capital facilitates the achievement of goals that could not be achieved in its absence or could be achieved only at a higher cost”.

Social capital brings social, political and economic benefits. Its use is commonly explored from the point of view of a community and rarely in its individual aspect. This adds particular interest to the analysis of social capital as an individual resource, which according to numerous authors (Coleman, 1990, 1994; Burt, 2000; Baker, 2000;) contributes to personal and professional success.

Moreover, the existence of social capital explains why some people get along in life better than others, despite seeming equally talented (Coleman, 1990). These differences manifest as a higher income, wider influence or better quality of life. According to Burt (2005), connection to other people makes some achieve their goals better and more efficiently than others. The resource of trust and social networks plays a significant role in the active participation of individuals in many dimensions of social life. Nevertheless, its main importance is for the economic aspect. “Social relations and non-market interactions of actors influence their behaviours toward one another on the market. Individuals choose behavioural strategies taking into account their own benefits and the probable behaviours of others. … This includes mutual trust, assessment of the propensity to cooperate and the willingness to maintain mutual contact in the short and long run” (Bartkowski, 2007, p. 56).

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