Social Capital: An indispensable resource for quality of life

Giovanni Cucci, SJ

 Giovanni Cucci, SJ / Church Life / 8 May 2019

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A human being’s ability to react to negative events is remarkable. As research shows, the consequences of a trauma depend largely on how individuals interpret the occurrence, their core values, and above all whether they face it alone or have someone close by who can help. The ancients taught that a human being is by nature a political animal; and a sense of community is one of our main forms of protection because “communities that possess a strong system of meaning can cope very well with disasters and violent conflicts.”[1]

As confirmed by research in places torn apart by wars or overwhelmed by cataclysms, the role a community plays in an individual’s life is a fundamental discriminant. In fact, the support of the community, its values and traditions strengthen its members and curtail any “self-made” individualistic human postulate.

Instead, a solitary life seemingly without problems is far more damaging to the health than a tragic event faced with the support  of strong and deep bonds. In fact, the highest statistics for suicidal types of behavior among adolescents and young people are registered in well-organized and efficient societies that are extensively lacking in terms of relationships, sense of community and core values.[2]

Therefore, the important question to be answered is: Which are the elements that contribute to a community’s well-being? Robert Putnam, an American political scientist, summarized them with the term “social capital,” which is the indispensable asset that, like banks and investment centers, is the basis of a society’s wealth in terms of quality of life.

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