What is social capital?
Well, it’s the topic of this whole thread so I should probably explain a little more! Google tells us that social capital is “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively” but it can come in many forms as Putnam explains, “Not all networks have exactly the same effects: friends may improve health, whereas civic groups strengthen democracy. Moreover, although networks can powerfully affect our ability to get things done, nothing guarantees that what gets done through networks will be socially beneficial. Al Qaeda, for instance, is an excellent example of social capital, enabling its participants to accomplish goals they could not accomplish without that network.” (1)
Why is social capital important?
There has been an increase in research surrounding the impact social capital can have on many aspects in life, suggesting that higher levels of social capital can make us healthier, wealthier, smarter, more politically active, better able to fight illness and trauma and so on! A quote I really liked from Robert Putnam is:
“Social capital improves our lot by widening our awareness of the many ways in which our fates are linked. People who have active and trusting connections to others--whether family members, friends, or fellow bowlers--develop or maintain character traits that are good for the rest of society. Joiners become more tolerant, less cynical, and more empathetic to the misfortunes of others. When people lack connections to others, they are unable to test the veracity of their own views, whether in the give-and-take of casual conversation or in more formal deliberation.” (2)
I think we are starting to realize, now more than ever, that we need each other. Being alone, or not having relationships, is hard and scary. And simple things like small-talk while on a walk or helping someone are meaningful. Since I started this blog, COVID-19 has rampaged through the world and caused more disruptions than any of us could imagine. I now write in social isolation in my home and this blog has become that much more important. Social capital is crucial and we’re all feeling the effects without it.
1. Putnam (a), 138.
2.Robert D Putnam (b), Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, NY:Simon & Schuster, 288-289.