Monday, January 18, 2010

Social Capital and the Imbalance of Power.

Daniel Schultz (aka pastrodan) has a piece up at ReligionDispatches about how to build social capital, the antidote to our current power imbalance in US society. It's a great read and references Chris Hayes' recent article at The Nation. I recommend you read the latter than the former. Here's a clip from Schultz:

To put it another way, agree or disagree with her, the Village sees Jane Hamsher coming and they crap their pants. Can you imagine what they'd do with 300 million of her?

It's no accident that the netroots—based in the internet, one of the biggest generators of social capital in recent memory—has been disproportionately effective. We can connect citizens to one another, help them to understand how their fate is intertwined with those of others, and set them on the course to create something together. That's power. No wonder it worries some people who make their living off convincing ordinary people they can't do it for themselves.

I'm not trying to indulge in blog triumphalism here. Plenty of other social frameworks can do the same thing. Remember, I'm reading Block's book for clues about how the church can create social capital.

Rather, like Hayes, I am hopeful about the long-term prospects for our democracy. Or at least I'm not ready to count us out just yet. There are things that can be done to affect the balance of power, as Hayes suggests: public financing, nuking the filibuster, passing the EFCA. But there are other measures than can be taken to bind us to one another and make sure the power stays spread around. They're not sexy, and they're not easy. They're the grunt work of civic engagement: getting to know your neighbors' names, volunteering at the school or the senior citizens' home, going to church or the theater, signing petitions, attending neighborhood meetings, getting to know people across all sorts of social lines.

I realize that some people will think this approach is terribly soft-headed. What we need is power, and lots of it, they will say. That's short-sighted to the point of not being able to see past your nose. Like Hayes says, Obama unleashed the social yearnings of voters in 2008. Along with some favorable conditions, the social strategy made him win in a walk. Why his administration would turn their backs on the very thing that brought them to office, I do not know, but I suspect they will come to regret the insider strategy they have adopted in the past year.

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Anonymous nethosting26 said...

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February 12, 2010 at 2:15 AM  

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