This paper attempts to conceptualise emergent practices, future directions and political priorities in the social organisation of learning and work in Australia. It begins by reviewing the recent trajectories of education and training reform and the way these trends have been contextualised in the broader restructuring of work and globalisation. Within this changing landscape of education and training, the paper identifies notions of 'social capital' and 'capacity building' as significant developments in the contemporary politics of education and training. Drawing on recent research, the paper will illustrate the practical significance of these notions in the work of teachers and managers, documenting the way educators are using capacity-building strategies as a way of pursuing and redefining their educational projects within the context of marketised and decentralised education and training provision. Conceptualisations of social capital and capacity building will be discussed with a view to clarifying the way 'social capital' and 'capacity-building' are being integrated into the politics of education. The implications of these practical developments and contradictory conceptualisations for ongoing debates about education will be considered.