// what do you think?


Social Media, Social Capital and the Future of Capitalism

New Comm Biz

In my last post I explored the idea of rethinking what is capital. Jill, Jason and I had quite the discussion in the comments that raised more questions than answers.  So I did what I always did; spent many nights when I should be sleeping and many hours on the plane in my recent travels thinking about it.

I started thinking that this type of capital that I’ve been thinking of as Raw Capital. Raw Capital are only things you can invest, things you control. Things like knowledge, trust, attention but not things like time. You don’t control time and can’t create more of it but you can control and create more attention, trust and knowledge.

This brings up a topic  that I’ve been skirting around but not fully addressing, the idea of Social Capital. From the Wikipedias:

According to Robert Putnam, social capital “refers to the collective value of all ‘social networks‘ and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other”.  According to Putnam and his followers, social capital is a key component to building and maintaining democracy. Putnam says that social capital is declining in the United States. This is seen in lower levels of trust in government and lower levels of civic participation. Putnam also says that television and urban sprawl have had a significant role in making America far less ‘connected’. Putnam believes that social capital can be measured by the amount of trust and “reciprocity” in a community or between individuals. Nan Lin‘s concept of social capital has a more individualistic approach: “Investment in social relations with expected returns in the marketplace”. This may subsume the concepts of some others such as Bourdieu, Flap and Eriksson.

My theory is that as our society has been so focused on the monetary value that we’ve been ignoring social capital. I think this is a key to the problem I’ve been working on. I wonder if we’re getting close to being able to actually measure social capital?

I’ve recently heard many people claim that capitalism doesn’t work anymore, I think maybe we’ve just been too narrow in our definition of capital.

More thoughts later. I should have more thoughts after tomorrows plane ride :)

By the way, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do is well worth the read.

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

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  • http://twitter.com/jelefant jason moriber


    Nice! I was working on my reply to your last post and BOOM, you drop this one. I found this quote, though it's rooted to journalism, I think it touches on your take on Social Captial…”In this hybrid era of straddling print and digital publishing, the role of the gatekeeper has markedly morphed. It’s shifted from “us” to “them,” but “them” includes a lowercase version of “us,” too. Gatekeeping is now a collective pursuit; we’ve become our own and each other’s editors.”


    (more sooner!)


  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Keep asking yourself the right questions Tac, good read.
    Imagine a way to convert cash (liquid capital) to social capital and vice versa. Is such a thing even possible, or desirable?

  • http://www.taylordavidson.com/writing/ Taylor Davidson

    We value what we can measure.

    Externalities (unvalued and unaccounted side effects of a decision, both benefits and costs) lead to inefficient decisions. Measuring “social capital” (or, the full social impact of a business decision) is one of the keys for creating a more sustainable economic system.

    How do we do that? That's the fun. And the opportunity :)

  • Dan

    The Ingenesist Project specifies an alternate economy built on social capitalism. Not what you would expect so please visit Ingenesist.com or several videos on YT channel “Ingenesist”

    Their work is influenced by Putnam, Florida, Jacobs, Schumpater, etc - so not a flower child manifesto by any means.

    Yes you can measure it…..

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Awesome, thanks Dan. I'll check it out for sure.

  • Jill

    I also gave this topic some additional thought, Tac and while I am still confused I thought that I would share some of my thoughts. As we build/develop our social networks/relationships we're (or at least I am) willing to give more time (I know that you said we can't create more of TIME) but we can GIVE more time to things that matter to my network/causes/relationship/etc.. So here I am at 10:30 at night responding to your post (a few days late) and I spend a lot of my time helping to promote Seth Godin's road trip. Why do I do this? Because, I believe in you (& Seth) and it's important to me to give what I can. So, is this measurable? You build trust/knowledge and in turn you EARN my attention (& more of my time). Right? Good luck with all of this….it's a hard one.

  • http://twitter.com/adidienne Antoine Didienne

    Social Capital is vital for human interaction and society, but it depends what facet of it you are looking at. I think It depends if you are a follower of gurus such as Richard Stallman, or if you are a Jaron Lanier kind of person.

    I think it is easier (less work) to be a Stallman guy, where you can believe that data (social capital is data) is free to have, exchange, and modify. This means that music, movies, books, software, etc are all free. awesome… Theoretically.

    But without being an alarmist, it seems to me that we are engaging on a very slippery road. Without careful monitoring of our actions of the Internet, the web 2.0 will be paving the way for the disappearance of trust, and creativity. The web rewards online engagement and discussion, but most of all: free work (i.e. Wikipedia, Linux, etc). Yes, we have social capital, and we might be on the verge of changing the economic system that governs our world, but with free labor, how will we provide for our families?

    Moreover, this new system might work for those connected to the network, but of what of the millions who still need to work for a living?

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    I think a weekend away helped my place why I can't think of Time as a form of Capital. See coming post :)

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