Sociology Index

Political Capital

Political capital is the belief that a politician has a legitimate political power to enact policy. Political capital is gained through elections by pursuing policies that have public support and favoring other politicians. Political capital may be gainfully spent or wasted through failed attempts to promote unpopular policies. Political capital is supposed to be highest in the honeymoon period of a presidency. The support in congress enables the president to use his honeymoon period and political capital to pass what he considers ideal legislation. Political capital helps you to get things done. But political capital can built only on a foundation of social capital and human capital. People who possess high political capital have higher collective ability to find their own voice and the ability to engage in actions that contribute to the well-being of their community.

Political capital is the belief among people that a politician has a legitimate political mandate to enact policies that benefit people at large. Political capital gives credibility to the elected person and gives him the powers because he has been elected to act for the community at large.

A considerable part of more recent popular use of the term 'political capital' can be attributed to George W. Bush whose widely repeated words, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital...” Bush turned this term into a buzzword in his administration (Suellentrop 2004).

Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2002) summarizes that political capital "is increasingly recognized as the missing dimension of the Sustainable Livelihoods framework.

The trend in use of the term 'political capital' throughout the 20th century was partly prepared for by use of another related term, ‘social capital,’ which appeared later (Hanifan 1916, 130). 


Political capital is a community’s power and goodwill held by individuals, groups and organizations that can be used to achieve desired ends. Political capital is the ability to influence the distribution of resources within a social unit. Investments in political capital are made through inclusive organizing and engaging players for mutual self-interest can build political capital. Earnings from investments in political capital increases influence in decision-making, increases control over other forms of capital.

Political Capital Conceptualization: Reclaiming the Heart of Democracy - Nayden, Nikolay Jordanov - Sofia University.
The term, political capital, has shown remarkable persistence in academic and popular literatures and covers aspects of politics otherwise inaccessible to mainstream political science. This article attempts to correct conceptual deficiencies for the term, political capital, by examining its academic usage. The reasoning is that: political capital is engendered in the relations between publics and politics, and rethinks the significance and meaning of political capital for contemporary political science.

Untangling Social and Political Capital in Latin American Democracies - John A. Booth, Patricia Bayer Richard - Latin American Politics and Society.
Robert Putnam extolled the virtue of social capital by arguing that social networks, civil society, and trust contribute to democracy. This article proposes the concept of political capital as a likely product of social capital that links civil society participants to the political system. The article tests this two-stage model of social capital and political capital and their effects on democratization using survey data from eight Latin American nations. Results find that civil society engagement in 2004 affected political capital variables, which, in turn, had positive effects on system-level democracy measures in 2010. The article thus shows that political capital serves as an intervening variable between social capital and democracy and democratization.

Finding political capital for monetary tightening: Unemployment insurance and partisan monetary cycles - DESPINA ALEXIADOU - European Journal of Political Research.
How do governments find the political capital to raise interest rates in pursuit of inflation stabilisation? Against common wisdom, this article shows that the ability of governments to exercise tight monetary policy largely depends on the level of unemployment insurance.