I was invited to write an article for an academic journal on social capital so I have been digging into the literature on this topic to prepare. A couple years ago, as Jeff Fromknecht and I were working on our book, "Social Capital: The Key to Macro Change," we had reviewed most of the salient studies, but it was a while back, so I "hit" the books.
There has been much written on this topic, and the power and value of relationships can be traced back to Aristotle. In fact, the importance of community and the value we reap from being a member of "tribes" was recognized in the "I-Ching," one of the most ancient of texts!
Looking at the U.S., the noted French scholar, Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in 1840, said: "associations (communities) unites divergent minds and vigorously directs them toward a clearly indicated goal." He says that relationships counterbalance the dangers of individualism (selfishness, headonism, and the like).
But the real core of understanding social capital boils down to "trust." That is, when sociologists look to measure social capital, the variable that they focus on is social trust. And some social scientists say it is not so much trust, but "trustworthiness." That is, the people around you, close or not, that you feel you can trust.
Now usually trust is an earned commodity. With most of our early relationships, we need experience with the person before we start trusting them. In a way we expect people to earn our trust. In fact, we teach children not to trust strangers. This begs the question, "how did you learn to trust?" How are you teaching your children about trust? Where do you fall on the trustworthiness scale.? Who do you think trusts you?
As simple as it seems, you can begin to measure your social capital, in a way, by thinking about the people in your life that you trust.