An investigation of the concept of 'capital'
Gratien, Kelsey Ryan
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The term "capital" has been stretched and extended beyond its original theoretical roots, and this has resulted in confusion. After reviewing various problems associated with the conceptual stretching of "capital," I argue that, when used correctly with careful specification of the input-output processes, capital is a useful and necessary concept in political science. To demonstrate this, I propose three articles that focus on (1) social capital, (2) political capital in the presidency, and (3) political capital in the Supreme Court. All three articles maintain a common definition of "capital," which stems from original economic definitions; capital is "an investment with a...return in the marketplace" (Lin 2002, 3). In economics, we can think of capital as an input in production which improves the efficiency of labor. Higher amounts of capital result in higher output for the same labor input. In economics, we can differentiate between physical capital (such as machinery, buildings, vehicles, etc.) and human capital (such as education and talents of employees that aid production). We can also view social and political capital in similar ways. Chapter II argues that sports teams, as physical social capital, can help individuals increase their stocks of social capital (human social capital) as the teams provide institutional structures that bring individuals together and decrease "social distance" between community members. Chapter III focuses on presidential political capital and demonstrates how this form of capital affects and is affected by veto usage. Results suggest that higher stocks of political capital can reverse the typically presumed costs associated with the veto. Chapter IV looks at judicial decision making and suggests that orally arguing attorneys may have higher "efficiency in labor" (or more preferred outcomes in terms of individual justices' votes with less effort) when they share collegiate affiliations with the justices. These three chapters are certainly not comprehensive of how "capital" can be used, but they provide examples of how, with proper specification, capital can be a useful concept. The conclusion draws parallels between these types of capital and various forms of capital in economics and urges scholars to incorporate the concept of "capital" into future research.