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Why is social capital so important?

Importance of social capital

Social capital is a vital resource for individuals, groups, and society. Social capital has been described as a lubricant that facilitates getting things done. It allows people to work together and to access benefits from social relationships. Social capital allows modern economies to function efficiently. Our society, economy, institutions, and political system could not exist without social capital. Social capital refers to the internal social and cultural coherence of society. As such social capital has been described as a glue.

For individuals, social capital is important because it is an important source of power and influence that helps people to ‘get by’ and ‘get ahead’. The adage: “it’s not just what you know, but who you know” relates to the powerful effects and importance of social capital.

For groups and organisations social capital is vital to their efficiency and even existence. Social capital enables people to work together and facilitates cooperation and innovation. Any organisation that doesn’t consider the importance of social capital is missing an opportunity for improvement, and risking inefficiencies and peril.

For society, social capital is also important as it allows societal institutions to exist and maintains the coherence of society. It facilitates the cooperation and collaboration of different groups and organisations. It encourages people to be positively social towards one another with a wide range of benefits from reduced crime and corruption, to increased helpfulness and improved cooperation.

Importance of social capital as a concept

Social capital is a relatively new concept, but it does not represent new ideas. It is just a different way of thinking about the importance of sociability that has always been important to humans. In fact, from an evolutionary point of view humans could not have survived without what we now call social capital. The ability to work together and cooperate for mutual benefit was essential to survival and continues to be vital to the functioning of our society and economy.

The concept of social capital frames social and cultural processes as beneficial, important, and valuable using the language of our dominant paradigm: capitalism. There can be no mistaking the value of the ‘social’ when it is attached to the label ‘capital’ and this can be readily appreciated by scholars from economics to accounting and all of the social sciences as well as people in politics, business and all other organisations.

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