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What is social capital?

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Quick Answer

Social capital, defined broadly, is the sum of the traits in a society that allows its members to work together cohesively, such as feelings of trust, unity and equality among citizens. The amount of social capital in a society is subject to change over time.

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Full Answer

How much social capital a society has is important. It is more difficult for governments of countries with low social capital to be effective in implementing government programs, and to do so, they must rely on authority and external control. In a country with high levels of social control, however, many problems will be solved without the government having to intervene at all, and when the government does find it necessary to act, its programs tend to receive widespread support.

Some factors are known to strengthen a culture's social capital, such as a spirit of willingness to bargain and compromise for the good of all, the belief that all citizens are of equal worth, high levels of education and satisfaction with the government. These are all things that create a feeling of belonging and mutual support among citizens. Other factors, on the other hand, including the privatizing impact of television, tend to lower a society's capital.

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