Thursday, March 28, 2019

Social Capital

photo of  Via Monte Napoleoni in Milan: MaryG90
New York, Paris and maybe Milan (during fashion season) may be the social capitals of the world, but then there's social capital, an asset that an individual can possess literally everywhere.The term is used in social sciences. However, it's literal meaning can be usefully applied in everyday circumstances. What constitutes this form of wealth? Is it merely the ability to be lionized the moment that one walks into a room? Is it the result of the “aphrodisiac” nature of power that Henry Kissinger once referred to? If it derived merely from wealth, then all-important considerations of class would have to be cast aside? A very wealthy Russian Oligarch who has made his money from potash like Dimitry Rybolovlev and has paid record breaking money for his daughter’s Manhattan penthouse will find that his currency is not fungible to the extent that it doesn’t translate into the kind of respectability that’s earned in a meritocracy. A poet like the recently deceased John Ashbery will have much more social capital than an industrialist or manufacturer especially if their wealth derives from carbon-based fuels which add to the greenhouse effect. Felix Frankfurter, a Supreme Court justice, who had so little money that his widow was left destitute would have had more social capital than robber barons of another era like John D. Rockefeller, Vincent Astor or Henry Clay Frick, even though he was Jew at a time when the establishment was still anti-Semitic. Americans sometimes worship the qualities that produce affluence, like knowledge, more than they reward its attainment—which often fails to level the playing field.

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