Reaching Out, Reaching In
Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis
Chapter 12: Understanding Social Capital: In Whom do we Trust?
Darryl Stickel, Roger C. Mayer and Sim B. Sitkin Since the 1990s there has been a growing interest in social capital, as evidenced by the chapters in this volume. In tandem with the interest has been a concern: empirical evidence shows trends that people are less likely to join groups, invest time and energy in community projects, or volunteer for a wide variety of causes. Overall, US society seems to be experiencing a more general decline in social capital being. That is, people are investing less time to create ‘the set of trust, institutions, social norms, social networks, and organizations that shape the interactions of actors within a society and are an asset for the individual and collective production of well-being’ (Sabatini, 2006). Social capital’s decline is of particular concern because of the wideranging beneﬁts associated with high levels of social capital, including improved children’s welfare, education, safety, economic prosperity, public health, individual well-being and democracy. With healthy social capital, we can also expect more ﬂexible and timely responses to new issues because: ‘[a]ccumulated social trust allows groups and organizations, and even nations, to develop the tolerance sometimes needed to deal with conﬂicts and diﬀering interests’ (Cox, 1995). High levels of social capital also seem to correlate with more eﬃcient and eﬀective organizations, communities and governments. Despite the growing body of literature on this topic and increasing levels of concern expressed by scholars and government leaders, little progress seems to have been made in...
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