What is Social Capital?

Jessie mentioned to me today about Social Capital. Of course, I went along with the conversation for a while before I said, “What is Social Capital?” I also turned to my favorite search engine to see what I could find out about social capital.

Wikipedia says that the term social capital fist came up in 1916. Who would have thought that is was so old. I thought the term was a new one to describe something related to the Internet. I think that social capital relates to us as humans and as social creatures, and the Internet is just the new way of being in touch.

This is from Wikipedia:

L.J. Hanifan’s 1916 article regarding local support for rural schools is one of the first occurrences of the term “social capital” in reference to social cohesion and personal investment in the community.[3] In defining the concept, Hanifan contrasts social capital with material goods by defining it as:

“I do not refer to real estate, or to personal property or to cold cash, but rather to that in life which tends to make these tangible substances count for most in the daily lives of people, namely, goodwill, fellowship, mutual sympathy and social intercourse among a group of individuals and families who make up a social unit… If he may come 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 coöperation 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 (pp. 130-131).”

When I first saw this, I thought, that can’t be relevant. But I believe I was wrong. I think this definition works well for today. All that has changed is our way of meeting. We now meet online and can choose who our friends are online. You can make friends with people overseas that you have never physically met.

Actually, it reminded me of my high school days when my teachers tried to get us to think, by introducing us to Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan talked about the world becoming a Global Village through the use of the telephone and TV. If only he could have seen Twitter. Now we have the ability to create and join our own global villages, we can belong to more than one village simultaneously and we can know what is going in our villages…

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