Drawbacks of social capital: power relations

[German title: Nachteile von sozialem Kapital: Machtbeziehungen]

Annick Willem and Harry Scarbrough
Social capital and political bias in knowledge sharing: An exploratory study
Human Relations, Vol. 59, No. 10, 1343-1370 (2006)
DOI: 10.1177/0018726706071527
Publisher: Sage Publications

Abstract: The benefits of social capital for the sharing of knowledge are frequently emphasized in the literature. However, a few authors have also begun to draw our attention towards the drawbacks of social capital for the working of organizations. In particular, instrumental social capital – as opposed to consummatory social capital – is seen as linked to power relations, which can inhibit the sharing of knowledge. To contribute to this debate on the role of social capital, we carried out a qualitative study in two Belgian companies. Our findings reveal that social capital generally tends to enhance the sharing of knowledge but that in its instrumental form it reflects opportunistic and political objectives, and promotes a highly selective form of knowledge sharing.

Key Words: case studies • informal networking • knowledge sharing • politicking • social capital

Read the article online.

© 2006 The Tavistock Institute.

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