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Social Capital

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The Oil Drum: New York City has an interesting map of the United States that displays the amount of social capital per state. Social capital is a bit of an ill-defined term but simply indicates the sense of community and interconnectedness people feel. Or as Robert Putnam, author of a book on social capital called Bowling Alone says, “The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all ‘social networks’ [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [‘norms of reciprocity’].” The map is based on the results of a survey, presumably by Putnam and suggests that states such as Vermont and North Dakota have higher levels of social capital than Nevada or Alabama.

1 Responses to “Social Capital”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous 

    As can be easily inferred by the tone of the comments on The Oil Drum site, "social capital" is yet another convenient mechanism for smuggling in cultural biases under the cloak of social science. But the ambiguity doesn't prevent the generation of precise-looking charts, of course, because, well, we're all intellectuals here...

    Of course, root causes are looked for--sprawl! TV! Cheap gas! Thus we're all spared contemplating the positive impact of living in less dense living environments. And I didn't see the chart correlating the decline of social capital with the rise of female participation in the workforce: is that because there is no relationship or because the armchair social scientists don't have a glib, politically-correct set of speaking points that re-inforces their self-righteousness in that regard.

    So, yes, I get a little miffed when cartography is dragged in to "plot" social science indicators calculated with an all-too-small degree of intellectual rigor.


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