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Social Capital, Religious Social Capital and the Missing Element of Religious Ritual

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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.

Affiliations: 1: University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa and VID Specialized University, Oslo, Norway


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