Abstract: The concept of ‘social capital’ has met with huge success among governmental agencies, including governments at all levels and transnational entities such as the World Bank. And yet the concept has been subjected to a devastating critique. This paper investigates a number of reasons given in the literature for its popularity. It starts with a brief overview of the social policy context in Australia, where the social capital framework has been influential. It goes on to discuss some of the reasons for the framework’s popularity, both admiring, e.g. it broadens our understanding of community well-being beyond the economic, and critical, e.g. it ignores the power of (real) capital. The paper concludes by suggesting that 'social capital' continues to prevail, despite its dubious epistemological status, because it serves a useful ideological function for (real) capital.