public characters and social capital

It’s been rather a long time since I last posted, and as I’m nursing my sore throat with a cup of tea and some Indigo Girls, I figured I would write something.

I read a section of Jane Jacob’s last week for a class. In her book she talks about “public characters,” or people who publicly known in a community. They serve the purpose of communicating information within that community and thereby making the community safer and tighter. One of the things she says is that public characters serve a very limited role, and they must be willing, and they must not be over taxed. You can not use a public charcter too much or they will be unable to do the central role of their position. This idea resonated very strongly with me. I think it may be a little self inflating to consider myself a public character, but it’s an interested connection. On the flip side it seems that these public characters seem particularly apt at using social capital (my other favorite new vocabulary word). Social capital is the ability to use your relationships with other people to get things done. Using social capital creates more social capital.

I feel as though this idea fits really nicely into my other ideas about life and getting stuff done. What better way to affirm life and relationships between people than by acknowleging that those relationships are the most powerful way to accomplish things? I love it. So, I’m gonna go out and cultivate my social capital.

A friend of mine thought I said social capitalism this morning…. I’m not quite sure what that would be, but it’s an interesting idea. Another friend of mine, when I explained social capital to him responded with “Where I come from we call that using people.”

2 Responses to “public characters and social capital”

  1. Ben Hyde says:

    i gather that the original usage of the term social capital defined it as the set of capital equipment you could borrow from those who you knew. So if you could borrow a hammer from Joe next door, or a snow blower form Mary up the street then those would be added to the total sum of capital equipment you had access to thru your social connections. The term has clearly come to mean something more; but I still spend way too much time wondering why everybody on my street owns their own personal electric hedge trimmer. The reason seems to be a combination of the the complexity of coordinating the sharing of hedge trimmers and the fear that somebody might get the impression that somebody else was “using” them. Loan a some capital equipment today!

  2. eleanor says:

    thats interesting…. in the created community of my dorm that seems to happen around a lot of things. As the RA I’m expected to have certain sets of capital equipment so that not everyone needs to own it. For exampe I seem to be the only person on the hall with a toilet plunger. That creates some interesting visits. :) I also am provided with condoms, bandaids, cough drops, a broom, trashbags, and a vaccum. All useful things.

Leave a Reply