Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

What Is Social Capital

May 11, 2004

There seems to be this desire on the part of some to reduce every sort of good to some sort of 'capital' - human capital, knowledge capital, and now, social capital. Social capital is, according to one definition, "the degree to which a community or society collaborates and cooperates (through such mechanisms as networks, shared trust, norms and values) to achieve mutual benefits." According to another, "Over time, social capital builds what may be termed as social infrastructure." Bleah. Terms like social capital should be banned. Let's call it what it is: popularity, connections, relationships, friends. Terms like 'social capital' blur such distinctions in the process of commodifying something more subtle, more valuable, than crass material benefit.


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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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