Building the sustainable community: Is social capital the answer?

Jeffrey C. Bridger, A. E. Luloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, environmental sustainability has emerged as a prominent theme in the community development literature. In fact, the concept has become a standard feature of most economic and social development plans. Most models of sustainable community development stress the importance of widespread participation in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, community studies document numerous barriers to broad involvement and the high level of activeness envisioned by proponents of sustainable community development. In searching for ways to overcome these barriers, scholars and policymakers have embraced the idea that we can enhance efforts to create more sustainable communities by increasing the local stock of social capital. We examine this line of reasoning in light of what we view as the most important conceptual issues surrounding the relationship between social capital and sustainable community development. We conclude that before social capital is endorsed as a central component of public policy, much work remains to be done in terms of developing a more precise definition of the concept, situating it within extant theories of community, constructing better measures of social capital, documenting the activities and networks most important in building social capital, and gaining a better understanding of the forms of social capital that are most important in developing sustainable communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-472
Number of pages15
JournalSociological Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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