No. XXIX-XXX (2008)

Social Capital and Crime

Anna Kossowska
Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Department of Criminology

Published 2008-04-01


  • social capital,
  • crime,
  • criminology

How to Cite

Kossowska, A. (2008). Social Capital and Crime. Archives of Criminology, (XXIX-XXX), 113–118.


The article explores the question of how the use of social capital theory may affect research within the framework of in-depth criminological analyses. The author draws attention primarily to the problems and difficulties associated with the use of the concept of social capital in the social sciences. According to A. Kossowska, the first problem in applying the concept is the absence of a universally binding definition of the term, which seems to be developed each time by the authors of academic texts according to their beliefs and perception of social reality. The author looks at various attempts to define the concept and points to three key authors: Pierre Bourdieu, James Coleman, and Robert Putnam. She then seeks to explain the role of social capital theory in criminological research by highlighting its contribution to the advancement of theories commonly used by researchers in the field, such as structural and differential links. Social capital theory is also of great value in the study of juvenile delinquency. According to the author, reference to social capital theory can explain the determinants of delinquency in research on the power and effectiveness of social control. The article focusses on the importance of assessing not so much the social capital itself, but its characteristics. It suggests that social capital may also have an enforcing effect in the context of engaging in behaviour which is commonly perceived of as deviant, an example of which may be criminal behaviour. In this way, this text also discusses the negative side of social capital, which is rarely mentioned in the literature. According to the author it is also inaccurate to say that a higher level of social capital reduces the rate of crime. Turning to the international literature, Kossowska points to examples of high levels of social capital among members of organised crime, and explains that high capital resources also contribute to organised criminal activity.


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