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Health by association? Social capital, social theory, and the political economy of public health.

Authors
  • Szreter, Simon
  • Woolcock, Michael
Type
Published Article
Journal
International journal of epidemiology
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2004
Volume
33
Issue
4
Pages
650–667
Identifiers
PMID: 15282219
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Three perspectives on the efficacy of social capital have been explored in the public health literature. A "social support" perspective argues that informal networks are central to objective and subjective welfare; an "inequality" thesis posits that widening economic disparities have eroded citizens' sense of social justice and inclusion, which in turn has led to heightened anxiety and compromised rising life expectancies; a "political economy" approach sees the primary determinant of poor health outcomes as the socially and politically mediated exclusion from material resources. A more comprehensive but grounded theory of social capital is presented that develops a distinction between bonding, bridging, and linking social capital. It is argued that this framework helps to reconcile these three perspectives, incorporating a broader reading of history, politics, and the empirical evidence regarding the mechanisms connecting types of network structure and state-society relations to public health outcomes.

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