Outline conceptual elements of Social Capital, including putative cause and effects; then, speculate about the role of psychology in Social Capital
Social Capital (SC) can be defined as systematic social networks or norms organized by members who have common goals. SC may be different from a casual social tie, such as friendship, because SC possesses somewhat clear purpose in obtaining members’ shared goals (i.e., bring benefit or well-being to a group). SC can become physical or psychological resources which an individual or a group can count for and, thus, influence both individual and community behaviors.
It is some authors’ argument (i.e., Putnam, Heying, etc) that modern societies have been witnessing a decline in SC since the post war period. What might account for the decline in SC and what are the possible effect resulting from this decline? One plausible set of causes listed such factors as television, generational effect, time pressures originated from individuals’ busy daily schedule, increase in women in workforce, de-localization of business, and lack of sense of cohesiveness among elites who run these de-localized business. Having interesting TV programs in a comfortable room in a hot summer night, for example, may not bring people out to a PTA meeting which sometimes may end up being a meaningless social gathering. Moreover, for those businessmen or their family members who live in a community for a specific reason (i.e., doing business temporary) may fail to develop adequate senses of attachment to the community. As a result, in every possible way as described in the above-mentioned factors, psychological distance may arise between an individual and the community in which the individual lives. This psychological distance, in turn, can bring the individuals maladjustment to the community, resulting in decreasing in individual and community well-being.
It is a challenge for psychologists in general and community psychologists in particular to promote individuals being a part of SC or developing healthy SC. More specifically, the way in which community psychologists deal with in stopping the decline can become salient in development of SC, given that no systematic investigation in psychology has been conducted earlier. In developing SC, what may appear to be important in psychology include: 1) development psychological theory which help explain dynamics of SC onto individual or group; 2) presentation of clearly defined benefit people can obtain out of SC. Since the psychological investigation of SC is relatively new, developing a solid psychological theory seems necessary and may help contribute the understanding the dynamics of SC. Theorists do not necessarily develop a brand new theory, rather application of the existing psychological theory or constructs to explain the behavior of SC and systematic research based on the theory may help contribute the SC literature. In promoting SC, psychology can introduce the benefit individuals or groups can obtain out of SC. Without the presentation of benefit or positive consequence of being in SC, both individuals and groups may not be willing to consider to play a part in SC. Psychology also need to develop a strong rationale of why SC is important to human life and monitor the direction in which SC is trying to go.