Heather kicked us off on the topic of social capital with one of my favourite Big Bang Theory segments (it was also the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for the class). The basis of the clip, and Chapter 10 in Kadushin’s book, is that social networks have value. He explains that we can have social capital as individuals and as groups/communities. While this notion is not a new by any means, it gave me the vocabulary to describe something we talk about all the time.
I was part of a program where business professionals (with some degree of social capital) take on senior undergrad students to mentor them in their transition to industry. The idea of networking was heavily emphasized, as strong and weak ties were important for weaving the community together. The overt efforts to ‘network’ was more of a business-card collecting exercise in the end, but I did take two things away that resonated with me: grant yourself permission to meet whoever you want; and approach every situation by thinking about what you can do for them. Both of these thoughts put me in a positive mental space while reflecting values of safety and effanctance.
In our discussion about the negatives of social capital, I think sometimes social capital can come unsubstantiated (ie. what Kate said about people who are famous for being famous). It can become a dangerous thing if we celebrate or reinforce role models and leaders who misguide the community. I guess one can argue that ‘unsubstantiated’ is similar to ‘potential’ – which relates to Pierre Bourdieu‘s definition of social capital: “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.”