Is social capital good for everyone? The case of same-sex attracted women in rural South Australian communities

Edwards, Jane; Cheers, Brian
October 2007
Health Sociology Review;Oct2007, Vol. 16 Issue 3/4, p226
Academic Journal
Social capital is attracting increasing attention, particularly as a means of improving health status. However, much of the work on social capital employs Putnam's (1995) formulation of the concept. This view suggests social capital produces generalised benefits, thus presenting an anomaly between the higher stocks of social capital in Australian rural communities relative to urban areas, and their poorer health status. This paper presents data on the experience of same-sex attracted (SSA) women living in rural communities in South Australia. It suggests Bourdieu's account of social capital is more theoretically and empirically compelling than that of Putnam's, because of its capacity to explain the harmful psycho-social consequences of exclusion for those who are samesex attracted. Moreover, the different experiences of younger and older samesex attracted people in rural Australia indicates the need to take seriously the claim that social capital is unequally distributed and experienced in different ways. A conclusion of this paper is that blanket claims to increase and enhance social capital should be treated cautiously because of the adverse consequences for some groups.


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