Social Capital and Educational Achievements: Coleman vs. Bourdieu

  • Silvia Rogošić
  • Branislava Baranović
Keywords: Coleman, Bourdieu, social capital, educational achievements, theory of social reproduction, theory of social mobility


The influence of social capital on an individual’s educational achievements is the subject of numerous scientific papers. Research on social capital is most frequently based on Coleman’s (1988) or Bourdieu’s (1986) theories of capital, which are related to different paradigms of social theory: whereas Coleman’s approach has its roots in structural functionalism, Bourdieu’s approach contains elements of conflict theory. A number of authors, starting with Bourdieu, attempt to explain and prove that, when connected with the education of individuals, the activity of social capital facilitates social reproduction. Other authors support the notion that social capital is, in fact, a powerful weapon that encourages social mobility. A third group of researchers emphasise that neither of these approaches in isolation can entirety explain the influences of social capital on an individual’s education (Ho, 2003). The present paper offers a review of research focusing on the influences of social capital on educational achievements, while outlining the fundamental differences between the two theoretical approaches that are most frequently used for research of this topic. The aim of the paper is to explain the influence of social capital on an individual’s educational achievements under Bourdieu’s and Coleman’s theoretical concepts, and to establish whether combining the approaches is possible. The conclusion and arguments show that it is legitimate to use all three theoretical approaches. 


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