Social Capital

5 Dec

The term social capital gained popular currency when Robert Putnam wrote his book Bowling Alone – The Collapse and Revival of American Community. The book is well researched and very pertinent to associations because it refers to networks of people and their value:

“Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a university education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so do social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups” [from Wikipedia]

Putnam looked at all types of political, civic, religious, professional and even informal social networks, groups and associations. He noted that professional associations  roughly doubled in size between 1945 and 1965 but then the twenty year boom suddenly slowed, halted, and in almost all cases reversed. Many associations continued to grow but effectively lost “market share” as the mean membership rate as a percentage of number of professionals in the field dropped after 1990.

At the end of the chapter “What Killed Civic Engagement? – Summing Up” Putnam said “Work, sprawl, TV, and generational change are all important parts of the story, but important elements in our mystery remain unsolved.” The book was widely read and it’s author was  consulted by Presidents and Prime Ministers.

But that was ten years ago before the explosion in virtual/online communities such as Facebook. Could virtual/online communities be the social networks that revitalize civic engagement and social capital? Some more recent studies:


One Response to “Social Capital”


  1. Social Networking is More Than Having a Good Time « AssociCom - August 13, 2012

    […] claims. My favorite approach is the study of Social Capital and online communities . . . but I have blogged about that before. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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