I had two encounters with Robert Putnam last week.
- I looked at Bowling Alone (2000) and E Pluribus Unum (2007).
- I listened to a conversation he and Margaret Throsby had on ABC Classic FM.
I was very interested in his ideas about social capital and followed up with Alejandro Portes’ (1998) discussion.
The Bettertogether website observes that:
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”].
Social capital emphasizes … a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and – at least sometimes – for bystanders as well.
In his 2007 paper, Robert Putnam suggests that:
One of the most important challenges facing modern societies, and at the same time one of our most significant opportunities, is the increase in ethnic and social heterogeneity in virtually all advanced countries. The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today. This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland. In this article, I want to begin to explore the implications of that transition to a more diverse, multicultural society for ‘social capital’…
As I was writing this post a great example of this diversity and social capital appeared in the launch of an initiative (funding to help Turkish Australians to learn new trades) at the Global Learning Village in Broadmeadows, Victoria.