Good News: You Might be a Capitalist!

These contacts on ’dialed’ and ‘received’ calls on your mobile phone, that group you hang out with Saturday nights, and these colleagues with whom you share launch everyday over a chat… all of them form your wealth!

You should be delighted to know that you’ve been accumulating a capital unconsciously! There is a list of sociologists say that everyone has a wealth of social networks, what they called Social Capital. Yet, the term doesn’t have a firm definition; a conclusive explanation could be what Organization for Economic and Co-operative
Development (OECD) gives:

…Networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups

These networks may be formed in any context; between, colleagues in same course, masses attendees on Sundays, and Jama’a performing prayer collectively on Fridays, patient in the same hospitals or online or in any other sphere.

Now you may not feel comfortable with the term ‘social capital’, or wondering: It might be Social, but why it’s Capital? As the two American researchers Stephen Samuel Smith and Jessica Kulynych argued:

… the term social capital and derivatives such as social capitalist serve, to make the social, economic, and political relations that characterize capitalism appear a largely natural and inevitable aspect of human activity, as well as to help legitimate these relations

May be our social networks are called a capital because they can play the exact role of an economical capital, if it was less valuable than financial capitals, politicians worldwide were not to spends billions of money for their electoral campaigns, which is merely attempts to  get more social capital.

Watch Jackson Pollock, and how he (or more accurately his wife) invested  social capital in bringing lights on Pollock’s work:


Likewise, everyone should had used his social capital one day, doesn’t matter how small this capital is, or how simple the interest was. In my country (Egypt) the first thing a person would think of if has an economical deficit is a rotating savings and credit association, in the American Ohio, a community managed to use their social capital for the micro-economic recovery.


Sociologist went on explaining Social Capital and its power. Coming from a strong Marxist background, Pierre Bordieu may be the one who linked social capitalism with economical capitalism. For Bordieu a capital is either economic (money, properties…), cultural (degrees, academic posts, books written by the person) or social, he sees that individuals with economical capitals can buy culturatl and economical capitals, as they are able to access to universities (cultural) and should be networked with powerful people (social). Meanwhile, people with less economical capital are still able to build social capital, and my be gain a good reputation, fame or heroism, what he calls Symbolic Capital.

Now imagine two persons, one has a bag full of coins, the other has the same bag size but half full of banknotes, the latter should have more capital, eve if his bag is not fully loaded of money. Like the economical capital, the volume is not enough for building a social capital, the value of relationships and cohesion of networks is a key. Bordieu pays attention to how far the individual is trusted by his network members and how much they are ready to offer him. Therefore, a social ‘capitalist’ of them is the one who is able to mange the items he has to magnify his (social, economical or cultural) capital


I see social capitalists make the job of traditional media more difficult in some way, because they spread the word; and able to more information about stories. Meanwhile, if we have low social capital, we T.Vs, newspapers and magazines will gain more viewer/readership from those who don’t have enough social relations and want to keep themselves connected with the society. But overall, journalists and media people have to make social capitalists included in their social capital, who would source them and nurture their symbolic capital.

Whereas Social Media platforms have been trying to make us to practice our sociability, they are social capitalists, for instance Facebook, it tells you what your friends are doing, suggests  more friendships, let you see which groups others are members of and let others see yours, send you photos and status updated of your friends in the feeds and suggest you use more devices for accessing Facebook, all these efforts should make you more social and able to build your non- economical capital. But, this social network is using your capital to magnify its (economical, social and symbolic) capital.

Creative industries are dealing with social capital thing in a unique way, as they tend to make us virtual social capitalists, look at Harry Potter how he made millions of people love him, know all about him and trust his character to the extend of paying millions of dollars to watch him in a movie or to buy a book about him .

Though, the relationship between such characters and its fans aren’t socially interactive, means that one part (audience or readers) know everything about the other part (protagonist, while the latter doesn’t know almost anything about them. But today with all these social media networks, things are going differently; Harry Potter has multiple Facebook pages and groups, which are supposed to make him, at least virtually, connected with millions of them (the movie page only has over than 5million Likes), now he is able to make his social capital really social.


But then, why (the virtual) Harry Potter gained all this capital from societies with different cultures, while one of us may fail to accumulate just some capital in one society? Some people may lack, even temporary, fundamental elements of social networking, what we could call Social Bankrupt.

Factors of speeding up, slowing down or stopping social capital building could be: the language, Dell Hymes explains the role language plays in social life, not only as a medium to communicate, but also in building relation between individuals. The one’s accent reflects his cultural and economical capital; being bilingual or not is also a sign of a cultural wealth. This makes sense to authorities concern with teaching migrants the language, as an inevitable step for their societal integration.

Lack of confidence is another reason for a social bankrupt, both self confidence and trusting others are great obstacles for building a social capital, they may occur after a physical or physiological trauma, like a nervous shock, subjection to physical violence, an accident or a disability. Because social capital is important for health and well being, rehabilitation is the process to take place in order to help those bankrupted to build their social capital. In the opposite way, the community may not the part that doesn’t trust the individual, like people who were criminals, even if they’re legally punished, or persons with infectious diseases.

Despite the fact that Harry Potter is a very young boy, his networks include aged and ,idle aged people, meanwhile, age is an effective factor in social capital growth, but what happened is that Potter’s makers (better saying who commercialized him!) managed to create in Potter himself and his life, something attractive to each group. Which  is simply unavailable to happened with human beings.

This entry was posted in Networking, Social Capital, Social Media & social behavior and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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