Social, Religious and Spiritual Capitals: A Psychological Perspective

  • Chris Baker
Part of the International Handbooks of Religion and Education book series (IHRE, volume 3)


This article locates the concept of social capital and its faith-basedcorrelates—religious and spiritual capital—within a psychological framework. Upto now, these correlates have been deployed primarily within a social policy and political science discourse. Having located these concepts, the article develops a hypothesis, based on qualitative case study material, that religiously based motivation (spiritual capital) and religiously based participation (religious capital) work in mutually reinforcing ways to produce a virtuous cycle (or feedback loop) of capitals (including bridging and linking forms of capital—as well as bonding).

The psychological dimensions of spiritual capital are typologised and then linked to a series of theological motifs and words that appear to trigger these psychological states. These psycho-theological motifs are then further examined for their potential contribution to what Donal Dorr refers to as a “balanced spirituality”, which sees the possibility of change and transformation at a number of levels (including the social/political) and which also corresponds to classic understandings of the beneficial impact of social capital at micro, meso and macro levels (see Halpen and Putnam). The article concludes by linking this typologising to existing models of psychology of religion and measurement systems (e.g. Fisher, Allport and Ross) before raising some critical questions about the dominance of the capital paradigm as a sufficiently nuanced tool by which to evaluate the nature and psychologicalimpact of faith-based engagement in civil society.


Social Capital Civil Society Church Member Faith Community Virtuous Cycle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allport, G. (1966). Religious context of prejudice. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 5, 447–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, C. (2009). Blurred encounters? Religious literacy, spiritual capital and language. In A. Dinham, R. Furbey, & V. Lowndes, V. (Eds.), Faith in the public realism: Controversies, policies and practices. Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, C., & Skinner, H. (2005). Telling the stories: How churches are contributing to social capital. Manchester: William Temple Foundation.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, C., & Skinner, H. (2006). Faith in action: The dynamic connection between spiritual and religious capital. Manchester: William Temple Foundation.Google Scholar
  5. Batson, C., & Ventis, W. (1982). The religious experience. Oxford University Press: Oxford.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, G. (1964). Human capital. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  7. Berger, P. L., & Hefner, R. W. (2003). Spiritual capital in comparative perspective. Paper prepared for the Spiritual Capital Planning Meeting downloaded ( Accessed 29 March 2006.
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1987). Legitimation and structured interests in Weber’s sociology of religion. In C. Turner (Trans.), S. Whimster, & S. Lash (Eds.), Max Weber rationality and modernity. London: A & U.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1992). The logic of practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (Original publication 1980).Google Scholar
  10. Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 95–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Commission on Faith and Urban Life. (2006). Faithful cities, a call for celebration, vision and justice. London: Methodist Publishing House and Church House Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Derrida, J. (1996). Remarks on deconstruction and pragmatism. In S. Critchley, J. Derrida, E. Laclau, & R. Rorty (Eds.), Deconstruction and pragmatism. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Dinham, A., Furbey, R., & Lowndes, V. (Eds.). (2009). Faith in the public realm: Controversies, policies and practices. Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dorr, D. (1984). Spirituality and justice. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan.Google Scholar
  15. Farnell, R., Hopkinson, J., Jarvis, D., Martineau, J., & Hein, J. R. (2005). Faith in rural communities: Contributions of social capital to community vibrancy. Warwickshire: ACORA Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Finneron, D., Dinham, A., Chapman, R., & Miller, S. (2008). Report for communities and local government in connection with the CLG Framework for inter faith dialogue and social action ‘Face-to-Face and Side-by-Side’. London: Faith Based Regeneration Network.Google Scholar
  17. Francis, L. J. (2007). Introducing the New Indices of Religious Orientation (NIRO): Conceptualization and measurement. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 10, 585–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Francis, L. J., & Robbins, M. (2005). Urban hope and spiritual health: The adolescent voice. Epworth: Peterborough.Google Scholar
  19. Halpern, D. (2005). Social capital. Cambridge and Malden, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hopewell, J. (1987). Congregation: Stories and structures. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  21. Iannaccone, L. (1990). Religious practice: A human capital approach. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Iannaccone, L., & Klick, J. (2003). Spiritual capital: An introduction and literature review. George Mason University and American Enterprise Institute.Google Scholar
  23. Layard, R. (2005). Happiness: Lessons from a new science. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  24. Levinas, E. (1969). Totality and infinity: An essay on exteriority (A. Lingis, Trans.). Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Loury, G. (1987). Why should we care about group inequality? Social Philosophy and Policy, 5, 249–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lowndes, V., & Chapman, R. (2005). Faith hope and clarity: Developing a model of faith group involvement in civil renewal. Leicester, Local Government Research Unit: De Montfort University Leicester.Google Scholar
  27. Lowndes, V., & Smith, G. (2006). Mapping the public policy landscape: Faith-based voluntary action. Swindon: Economic and Social Research Council.Google Scholar
  28. Miller, S. (2007). Keeping it together. London: Faith Based Regeneration Network.Google Scholar
  29. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schwadel, P. (2005). Individual, congregational and denominational effects on church members’ civic participation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44(2), 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smidt, C. (Ed.). (2004). Religion as social capital: Producing the common good. Waco: Baylor University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Starke, R., & Finke, R. (2000). Acts of faith: Explaining the human side of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  33. Woolcock, M. (1988). Social capital and economic development: Toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. Theory and Society, 27(2), 155.Google Scholar
  34. Woolcock, M. (2001). The place of social capital in understanding social and economic outcomes. Isuma: Canadian Journal of Policy Research, 2(1), 1–17.Google Scholar

Biographical details

  1. Dr Chris Baker is Director of Research at the William Temple Foundation, Manchester and part-time lecturer in Urban Theology, Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester, UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.William Temple Foundation, Luther King HouseRusholmeManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations