This article was written to contribute towards developing a suitable conceptual framework for meeting the overarching research aim of developing a more profound empirically informed interpretation of the manner and extent to which religious ritual could be valued as a source of social capital formation in the South African context. With this in mind, the article first explores the concept of social capital in the light of the threefold distinction between bonding, bridging and linking forms of social capital. Secondly, from the vantage point of such exploration the connection with religion is made more pointedly. By tapping into the more recently invented notion of religious social capital, the article shows how this concept is today used meaningfully to advance a twofold perspective: on religion as a special repository of social capital, but also on the limitations of religion and its institutions in meeting the social capital needs of communities and the wider society. Finally, from the viewpoint of eliciting important conceptual value from the notion of religious social capital, the case of religious ritual as a very necessary yet untapped element in the contemporary research focus on religion and social capital formation is presented. In particular, an argument about religious ritual as the consistently missing element in this research focus is put forward and given greater substance through the identification of two pointers from the literature that can be deemed useful in starting to address this lacuna.
See FieldSocial Capital11–43. For a similar recognition of the contribution of Bourdieu Coleman and Putnam see Mark K. Smith “Social Capital” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education http://infed.org/mobi/social-capital/ 2000–2009 retrieved 20 March 2014.
Michael Woolcock“Social Capital and Economic Development: Towards a Theoretical Synthesis and Policy Framework”Theory and Society27 no. 2 (1998): 188; see also Michael Woolcock “The Place of Social Capital in Understanding Social and Economic Outcomes” Development Research Group The World Bank and Kennedy School of Government Harvard University 25 www.oecd.org/innovation/research/1824913.pdf 2001 retrieved 1 February 2015; Michael Woolcock and Deepa Narayan “Social Capital: Implications for Development Theory Research and Policy” The World Bank Research Observer 15 no. 2 (2000): 227–228 243.
Maselko et al.“Religious Social Capital”760; see in further support of this observation John A. Coleman “Religious Social Capital: Its Nature Social Location and Limits” in Religion as Social Capital: Producing the Common Good ed. Corwin Smidt (Waco TX: Baylor University Press 2003) 33; Corwin Smidt “Religion Social Capital and Democratic Life: Concluding Thoughts” in Religion as Social Capital: Producing the Common Good ed. Corwin Smidt (Waco TX: Baylor University Press 2003) 216–222; Unruh and Sider “Social Capital and Spiritual Capital” 219–232.
Smidt“Religion Social Capital and Democratic Life”216; see also Corwin Smidt “Introduction” in Religion as Social Capital: Producing the Common Good (Waco TX: Baylor University Press 2003) 3; Coleman “Religious Social Capital” 33–34.
Smidt“Religion Social Capital and Democratic Life”218. For similar arguments advanced elsewhere see Chapter 11 on “Social and Spiritual Capital” in Unruh and Sider Saving Souls Serving Society 218–238.
SwensonSociety Spirituality and the Sacred188–190. It could be noted here how Swenson relies on the classic works of Smith and Durkheim in support of his identification of this function. He shows how they (Smith and Durkheim) held similar opinions about the way in which the bonding element established between believers and their gods through ritual practice (such as acts of worship) effectively leads to human bonding. Smith referred to the way in which ritual “renewed the bonds of family social and national obligation” and Durkheim to the way in which ritual strengthens “the bonds attaching the individual to the society of which he is a member” (see pp. 188–189).
Cas Wepener and Johan Cilliers“Ritual and the Generation of Social Capital in Contexts of Poverty,” in Religion and Social Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Perspectives for Critical Engagementeds. Ignatius Swart Hermann Rocher Sulina Green and Johannes Erasmus (Stellenbosch: SUN Press 2010) 417.