Economic Geography Research Group

Fostering research in Economic Geography

Download Working Paper 02.08 (PDF, 110KB).

2008 Working Papers

Working Paper 02.08

Social capital of economic clusters: towards a network-based conception of social resources

Franz Huber


To grasp the critical role of socio-cultural factors for regional economic development, several concepts have been developed, including that of ‘social capital’. This notion usually refers to norms, values, networks, reciprocity or trust which are held in a community and can lead to positive social and economic outcomes. Despite its popularity as a fashionable concept in the literature, the exact meaning of social capital is far from clear. This article criticises the dominant conceptions of social capital in economic geography and regional studies and aims to place the debate in a different perspective. It argues for an alternative understanding of social capital defined as resources embedded in social networks which can be accessed or are used for actions. The potential to overcome the current weaknesses in the literature is illustrated through discussing social capital of economic clusters.
Key words: Social capital, social networks, social resources, clusters, relational economic geography, knowledge spillovers