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Social capital: the role of narrative and historical research
  1. JENNIE POPAY, Editorial Committee

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    The editorial debate between several of the most prominent researchers of inequalities in the health field in this issue draws attention to two critical issues arising from different approaches to the conceptualisation of social capital. Firstly, the neglect of questions of power—its distribution and maintenance—in research on the relation between social capital and health. Secondly and more broadly the need to move beyond either a neo-Marxist or neo-Durkheimian explanation for inequalities in health so as to understand the economic imperatives that shape the distribution of all forms of capital. There are, however, two further imperatives for future work on the conceptualisation of social capital and the study of the relation between social capital and health. Firstly, social capital must be conceptualised as a dynamic process involving people living in places. As such it is a process with a past as well as a present and future. Secondly, existing research fails to consider the subjective, experiential dimension of social capital. Basically, future research on inequalities in health needs to move beyond the seemingly endless debates about macro statistical relations evident in these fascinating editorials. There are two developments urgently needed. Firstly, to link two somewhat separate domains of research—on area effects and social capital—and secondly, to link different “ways …

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