Social capital, interrupted: Sociological reflections from old age homes in Ahmedabad, India

Tannistha Samanta, Jagriti Gangopadhyay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Citations (Scopus)


A burgeoning literature has celebrated the complementary roles of bonding, bridging and linking potential of social capital. A disproportionately smaller set of studies have identified the less desirable consequences of social capital in terms of social control, exclusion and restrictions on freedoms have pointed out the limits of the (positive) functional value of social capital. In particular, we build on the latter critique of social capital and argue that moral-cultural scripts, social hierarchies and lived experiences of older Indians in elder care institutions trump the motivation to unlock the benefits of the much celebrated potential of social capital. To establish this argument, we have adopted a social constructionist perspective (Gergen and Gergen 2000) focusing on the cultural meanings of age and aging among 15 older adults living in two elder care institutions in the rapidly urbanizing city of Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India). Through in-depth interviews we illustrate that despite similar life circumstances, fate, shared histories, self-consciousness and agency, older people in these alternative care sites are often in the pursuit of a “meaningful decline” that frustrates the potential building/bridging capacities of social capital. We contend that moral-cultural scripts, belief systems and practices cripple the motivation to actively construct or benefit from social ties, interdependence and association. Overall, we extend previous studies on social networks of older adults in India and argue that an examination of the limits of social capital is crucial in understanding the lived experiences of older people and their access to networks and resources in non-familial settings. This is particularly useful as India experiences dramatic transformations in family structure marked by a gradual, yet steady, movement away from multigenerational settings to the individual, the market and the state, as emerging sites of aging and elder care.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCross-Cultural and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Social Gerontology
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789811016547
ISBN (Print)9789811016530
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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