As many of you know, I have researched social capital building on Putnam’s seminal work early on in my career. His question, do we want more policemen on the streets or more neighbours knowing one another, was uppermost in my mind when I started this research in 2001. In a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, Hilary Clinton made an interesting link between social capital, loneliness and the erosion of democratic principles in modern society.
Talking about the Surgeon General’s warning about an epidemic of loneliness, and how the pandemic turbocharged isolation, particularly among young people, she makes the links about how it can diminish civic engagement and social cohesion and increases political polarization and animosity. She references her 1970s book, It Takes a Village, and its prescriptions—putting families first, investing in community infrastructure, protecting kids from out-of-control technology and recommitting to core values of mutual responsibility and empathy—have only grown more urgent and necessary.
We need to rebuild the trust and social ties that used to bind communities, increase the opportunities for people to connect and strengthen social capital in their neighbourhoods, if we want to decrease random acts of violence, conflict and strengthen our democracies to regenerate all our relations, including to the natural world. This video talks about what makes a community vital.