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How is social capital created and maintained?

Exploring Social Capital Podcast
Exploring Social Capital Podcast
How is social capital created and maintained?

Ep 7. In this episode, we are going to dive into the nature of social capital as a stock and flow. Just as physical capital never works alone, neither does social capital. To produce and deliver a relational good or flow related to social capital requires other resources. We need a human relationship along with a connection to produce a social capital flow. For example, two persons may be connected by their participation in a musical group, political event, sporting activity, or a host of others activities that enable the flows of social capital goods. To create social capital, social capital flows must be exchanged. These flows are conveyed through social acts that convey an intangible signal. For example, a smile, handshake, or hug conveys that the object of these social acts is included in an empathetic relationship or that they are the object of another person’s social capital (well-being).

Tristan opens the discussion by highlighting the different backgrounds and perspectives he and Lindon bring to the conversation. Tristan comes from a background in sociology and social theory, while Lindon’s expertise lies in economics. This episode focuses on understanding social capital as a stock and flow and examining how it is created and maintained.

Lindon begins by defining social capital as connecting emotions between people that make their well-being interdependent. He lists emotions such as sympathy, empathy, trust, and regard as essential components of social capital. Lindon explains that social capital is built and maintained through acknowledging and creating commonalities, which can be earned, inherited, or formed through covenants or agreements.

Tristan emphasizes the role of communication in identifying and building these commonalities. He points out that communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is fundamental in creating shared understandings and social norms. Examples such as covenants, agreements, and gestures like handshakes illustrate how communication shapes social capital.

Lindon adds that attachment value goods or symbols can also create social capital without face-to-face interactions. These symbols, such as religious icons, can represent shared values and foster relationships even among strangers. He notes that while social capital originates in people, it can be embedded in things and institutions, enhancing the value and meaning of these symbols.

Tristan raises an important question about whether social capital can exist between strangers. He suggests that collective properties of social capital, such as those found in institutions or social groups, can influence individual relationships before they form. Lindon agrees, stating that knowing something about a person or sharing a common symbol can move individuals from being strangers to having a connection.

The conversation turns to the role of symbols and relational goods in commercial contexts. Lindon explains how companies try to embed relational goods in their products to distinguish them from competitors. This embedding can enhance the attachment value of products, influencing consumer behavior. Tristan agrees, noting that advertising often uses emotions and relational goods to create attachment value for otherwise identical products.

Tristan and Lindon discuss the importance of both two-way and one-way communication in maintaining social capital. They agree that non-verbal communication, symbols, and even one-way messages can significantly shape relationships and social capital. Tristan shares an example of how messages about littering in national parks can influence behavior more effectively than fines, illustrating the power of relationally appropriate communication.

In conclusion, they agree that social capital is created and maintained through various forms of communication, interaction, and exchange. Lindon emphasizes the importance of social capital in preserving natural resources and fostering respect for the environment. Tristan points out that simple acts of regard and respect, which do not cost anything, can create significant benefits and enhance social capital.

The episode wraps up with a suggestion to discuss the depreciation and appreciation of social capital over time in future episodes, highlighting the dynamic nature of social capital as a valuable resource in society.

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