Social Capital Theory

In this video, we’re going to talk about
Social Capital Theory and how we can apply it in our own professional lives.
So, let’s get into the details. Hey there. Welcome back.
Alex Lyon here and this channel, Communication Coach, is here to help you grow as a leader. And in this video we’re going to talk about social capital,
specifically Robert Putnam’s approach then Peirre Bourdieu’s approach. But,
ultimately I want to talk about practical applications because this
concept has real use when we talk about our own careers as leaders and as
professionals in the world. So first I want to talk about Robert Putnam’s
approach to social capital. He’s written about this extensively over the years,
and especially in his book called Bowling Alone which became very popular.
And his summation of the concept is this, that social networks have value. So he’s
talking about not just the companionship or the emotional support we get from
relationships, but our social connections themselves provide us as individuals and
as a community value. What exactly is he talking about. Well let’s break down
four of the ways that we get value out of our social networks. He mentions these on his website,, and I’ll put
links to all these resources in the description below the video so you can
look at those on your own. But, the first benefit is information. Our social
networks provide us information that we would not hear about otherwise. When
we’re talking to people we know we hear about job and career opportunities. We
hear about potential investment opportunities. And if we didn’t know
these people and weren’t interacting with them, we just would never hear about it and so those doors would not be open to us. Another benefit is reciprocity or
what we might call mutual aid. In other words, people that have relationships and connections help each other and then people return the favor and that’s one
of the ways that relationships work. If you invest in these relationships, you
get the benefit of mutual aid. Number three. Collective action. As a group,
you’re working together and that group action has a lot more impact than any
individual action that you might take. When you’re working on a group or a task
or something together, you build a foundation of relationship connections
that then you can put into use in the future so that collective action is a
very powerful resource or benefits of good relationship connections. And fourth
our identities and our sense of solidarity is another benefit of having
relationship connections with other people. There’s a sense of empowerment that we
feel when we feel like we’re part of a group, like we’re connected to a
community. We’re a real member of that community.
Now, Putnam talks about all these ideas but he’s really concerned about the
disintegration of relationships, the weakening of the ties that we have with
other people. And when these get weakened, we lose the benefit of all of all those
resources that we just mentioned. He talks about over the past 25 years how
there’s been a 58% drop in attendance at club meetings. So a club
meeting at some local club you might belong to like Rotary Club or some other
community club. We’re losing those connections. A 43% drop in family dinners. We’re, not as much as we used to, eating
dinner together as a family in one place. It becomes a struggle. We’re all so busy.
We’re all so, we’re pulled in different directions. It’s very difficult to do
that. A 35% drop in having friends over. I know this is true in my life. It’s
very hard to actually get together with friends. Now, this is very ironic if you
think about it because we’re more connected than ever through technology.
You can get on social media and connect with people and despite this technical
connection our relationships, our actual strong relationships with in-person
people, are really weakening over the decades. So that’s a big concern because
by losing those relationships, we lose all the benefits that come from
those social ties. We’re missing out on that potential social capital that we
could have. So let’s pivot now and talk about Pierre Bourdieu.
He is a French theorist and actually he wrote about this before Putnam, in the
1980s. And he wrote about it extensively in
articles and books. I actually cited him frequently in my dissertation and in
several journal articles that I published. His look at social capital
is described this way. The collection of resources or potential resources that
our durable network of relationships connect us to. In the same way as
Putnam, our relational ties, our network of relationship connections connect us
to other valuable resources or potentially valuable resources we might
actually use those resource where they’re they’re part of our network. Now,
where Bourdieu differs is in the aspect of power. He looks a lot at how power
gets maintained through the exclusivity of relationships. So he was really
looking at powerful groups and communities in in France and he was
noticing how there was a direct management of the access to that group
membership. Because if once you’re in the group, you had access to a lot of the
resources that the group had. So, he saw this management of access and membership in a group as a way to keep society stratified. so rich and powerful people
continue to associate with rich and powerful people and the rest of society’s [members]
don’t have access to that. Now, I understand this point of view and I
definitely see this in society and all over the world this is
obviously happening. But, if you think about, it it’s not necessarily done for
some evil purposes. In fact, you do it and I do it. So you might have a group of
friends that you grew up with, a group of friends that you have known over time
and you feel a sense of group membership with them. But, that doesn’t mean that
every new person you meet instantly becomes part of your trusted inner
circle. In some ways, quite innocently, you manage access to your social
networks as well, and you manage, by doing so, access to the resources. So until you
trust someone and really know someone, you’re not going to open up your life to
them. You’re not going connect them with other people that you
know and love and trust, unless you know them for long enough to establish some
foundation in that relationship. Now, let’s pivot now to talk about how
you can use these kinds of concepts in your own professional life. There are
five ways that you can begin taking this concept of social capital seriously for
your benefit and for the benefit of everybody around you. And the first one
is to build positive relationships with the people right around you. This
might seem obvious but I I know a lot of people who don’t seem to care about the
quality of their relationships with the people around them. They might not care
how they come across they might not care if they take advantage of somebody but
when you start caring about the people around you and treating them well, in the
long run those relationships will then be there for everybody’s mutual benefit.
The second way to apply this is to provide some value to the other people.
In other words, what can you do for them? How can you help them and you begin
to look for ways to add value and help other people? And that’s where you become a giver not a taker. You probably know some people in your circles who are more
takers. They’re looking for whether they can get out of a situation and you don’t
want to be that person. You always want to look to give. The third way is to help
other people connect. You might not have any direct help that you can really
offer a person that you know or meet but you might be able to connect them to
somebody who can. I have a good friend who’s really into real estate and he
knows everything about it. But, he doesn’t really help me directly.
If I have a question, I text him or call him and he almost instantly gets
back to me and connects me to someone who can help me like a contractor or
plumber, someone that can help me with an important question. So by
connecting me to other people, he’s investing in his relationship with me.
That’s another way you can help people out. You might not have anything directly
to offer but connect them to the people that can help them and you become a part of the solution. You become an important part of that social network. The fourth
way is to collaborate. When you’re working with people even on somewhat
ordinary jobs or tasks or projects, you build a foundation of trust
and working knowledge with each other and then those relationships will be
there later if you need to pull another team together for a future project. think beyond any one project and how this can help for future projects future
mutual aid and collective action. Number five, never take advantage of
other people. there’s a lot of short-term thinking out there in the world and
people are looking for an angle and how they can quickly take advantage and get
the upper hand but what that’ll do in that network of relationships that are
you’re connected to is that word will get out people won’t trust you as much.
It’s really going to undermine your credibility and even one bad decision
can take years or months to rebuild from. Consider the long-term value of your
relationship connections, not just some short-term momentary strategic advantage.
You have to think about the long run. Those are some of the tips and ways that
we can apply this theoretical concept to our own professional lives. So question
of the day. How does social capital apply to you as a professional? I would love to
hear your comments possibly your questions in that section below the
video and I look forward to reading those. So thanks for tuning in. God bless.
And I’ll see you in the next video.

11 thoughts on “Social Capital Theory

  1. Free Download pdf Quick Guide to Professional Communication Skills:

  2. I used my social capital to help me get my new job! I reached out to a family friend and talked to her about her company for a school project and she let me know about an open position in marketing (something I was very interested in!). I also used my social capital and worked with my professor at the time for interview training and assistance throughout the whole hiring process.

    I’ve learned to maximize my social capital by keeping in touch with a lot of people that would normally fall off. It’s a lot of work, but it really is all about “who you know”!

  3. This is one of my favorite topic. I work with people in recovery. Those that do best, have social capital. Many people in recovery have major anxiety disorders. They don't want to hang out with other people. Recovery is harder when all your friends use, are dead, or are in jail. Regaining social capital for this population is especially hard. I teach the importance of this and look forward to sharing your video with some of my patients who struggle with this. Comments?

  4. Thank you, I need this. This will be the theory I use for my thesis. I use it to apply for sustainability in community development. How common values, norms, and goals strengthen the bond and most of all their trust towards each other so that they can work together independently without any stakeholder beside themselves to continue on the projects.

  5. This concept seemed a bit complicated from my sociology classes but you have brilliantly and eloquently explained it. Thanks a lot for this. I particularly love the practical applications you outline.

  6. I work in development sector. There are three hats my role expects me to wear – manager, coach and connector. Connector hat basically focuses on making my people feel connected with the movement and people active within the movement. The video has given me a new approach towards designing my coaching conversations and sessions. I am sure my connecter hat is going to look more beautiful now. 😊😊😊

  7. One thing that Putnam does not account for is the social connections that you have online which are very real. Online social connection is the only reason why my younger brother has good social skills and I do not.

  8. It's not a theory if it's true!

    Excellent topic! Something so basic should be common knowledge, yet it's not. Perhaps the "exclusivity" principal has something to do with it?

    Such as, Black owned businesses of the 1930's–, and various mutual aid groups and banks… Perhaps were considered a threat to bigger buisnesss?

    Anyway. This is valuable information and people need to learn it. Again.

  9. Pierre Bourdieu was heavily influenced by Karl Marx and Max Weber, so naturally, he would assume the capital was evil. Outwardly deconstructing and antagonizing society are two of the most infamous aspects of Marxist-base critical school of thinking.

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