Saturday, February 21, 2009

What is social capital?

Social capital is basically who you know and what they can do for you. Here I lift a direct quote from page 19 of the Bowling Alone text:

[Social capital consists of] "those tangible substances that count for most in the daily lives of people: namely good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit.... The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself.... If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors."

It is also important to note that social capital consists of different parts. You would not go to your hockey buddies to help you write a ten page paper, and you wouldn't rely on the bookworm to go out and score a goal. Different people are valuable in their respective environments. Once they have been taken out of that environment, their use as social capital becomes diminished.

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