POLS 1113 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Kiwanis, Social Capital, Robert D. Putnam

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The Importance of Participation: Social Capital
Social capital and democracy
o Social capital the participation in groups of all sorts is necessary for democracies to
flourish. The stocks of social trust, norms, and networks that people can draw upon to
solve problems.
o Social capital refers to a lot of groups
Service organizations: Kiwanis, Jaycees
Interest groups: environmental organizations
Church choirs
Reading clubs
o Any association of people with similar concerns produces social capital
o Mediating Structures - (a term coined by sociologists to describe groups intermediate
between the individual and the government) contribute to social capital and include
families, churches, neighborhoods, and voluntary associations.
The Social Contract opens with the famous lines: man is born free; and everywhere
he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater
slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it
legitimate? That question I think I can answer
The connection between social capital and politics.
Some capital is necessary for democracies to flourish. Democracy is not only
about elections. Democracy is also concerned with bringing people together
peacefully to work on issues of local or national concern.
Participation in voluntary groups leads to the accumulation of social capital,
which in turn enhances the working of democracy.
Three important works on social capital
o Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762)
Social contract the idea that government originates as an implied contract among
individuals who agree to obey laws in exchange for protection of their rights.
Rousseau was a French philosopher concerned with, among other things, providing
a justification for government different from the divine rights of kings.
Rousseau also believed that social participation by citizens was crucial for
maintaining the social contract.
This social participation activities in politics and society was the way citizens
demonstrated their implied consent to be governed.
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