Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Social Capital - Samuel Smiles "self-help" raised from the individual to the collective

A great lecture by Ben Fine from SOAS - one of the few courageous critics of the concept of "social capital". This is a concept that is designed to mystify and confuse us. As he says it is "definitionally chaotic" but actually serves to focus us away from looking at the real relations of power, privilege and inequality that we should be confronting. Social capital is nonsense - the rich have real capital (and don't need social capital) whilst the poor are condemned for not having enough "social" capital. Their networks are not elaborate enough, they don't know the right people or enough of them - in other words they are not part of the elite. But then that was true by definition in the first place.

Language is denuded of meaning and devalued with vague talk of "cohesion" rather than solidarity, of "fairness" rather then equality. Conflict, power, context (as well as race, gender, class and politics) all mysteriously disappear in this cheap conjuring trick that tries to convince us that we would solve all our problems if we only had more street festivals, royal weddings or other excuses to eat somosas together. God forbid that we might instead actually challenge or criticise anything real!