As I posted here, I am a huge fan of this book. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the conclusions of the author, but as a psychologist I am convinced more than ever that the more social capital an individual builds in his/her life, the higher functioning they will be (in a healthy, well-rounded way), and the more emotionally satisfied they will be.
I’ve recently been re-reading certain sections of the book, and I thought I might post a few quotes here and there. I thought I might start by posting an excerpt that attempts to define “social capital,” which was observed to be steadily rising in this country until the 1960s, at which point it leveled off, then went into steep decline:
“In recent years social scientists have framed concerns about the changing character of American society in terms of the concept of “social capital.” By analogy with notions of physical capital and human capital - tools and training that enhance individual productivity - the core idea of social capital theory is that social networks have value. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a college education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so too social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups.
Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals - social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them. In that sense, social capital is closely related to what some have called “civic virtue.” The difference is that “social capital” calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a dense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital. (Pg. 18)”
Robert Putnam (the author), goes on to discuss further the definition and nature of what social capital is. Hopefully, I’ll get around to posting on more of this as I go along (man, I’ve got a lot of things I want to post on!). However, the important point of this passage is that connections between people, be it individual to individual, individual to group, group to group, formal, informal, etc., is just as important to the functioning of individuals and society as other forms of capital, and it has been on a marked decline for at least 30 years. On a macro level, I hope the trend stops, and reverses, but what I will focus on is on the micro level - the individual. I’ll select and discuss quotes from the book that seem particularly relevant to improving one’s personal sense of functioning and satisfaction (much of the future of treatment for depression and anxiety, btw, will head in this direction). Being engaged with other people is a good, healthy thing, when done the right way - this book highlights its importance, and that’s why I’ll be commenting on it.