Types of Social Capital: Bridging and Bonding

Putnam divides social capital into two distinct categories: that which bonds a dense network of people, and that which bridges between somewhat separate groups. Bonding social capital can be thought of as the glue that binds a community together that might exist for some homogeneous are identity-driven reason, such as an ethnic group or a religious organization. It bolsters these communities and makes them stronger, a kind of “sociological superglue” that reinforces ties of loyalty and support. Bridging social capital, on the other hand, breeds outward-looking networks and can bring together people from a variety of backgrounds and create new common ground, a “sociological WD-40.” The ties the bind are key for community development, and lead to a can lead to a sense of pride, uniting a group and help a given community draw together to help itself socially and economically. On the other hand, it can produce many of the negative effects of exclusive communities. Connections that bridge demographic and social differences, while perhaps being not as “strong” as internal links, can better serve a larger society by leading to more information diffusion, a broader identity and more multilateral behaviors. Groupings of individuals are not exclusively one or the other. Membership of an online community, for example, could span geographic, gender, age and professional lines while being bounded by education and a specific interest.

A successful community must not only have strong common bonds, but must also be linked to the outside world. IT can be used to do both.



Allan Friedman
January, 2002