With the framework presented in part 1 in mind we can now begin to address the nature of social capital. It is important to understand that stabilizing proper functions (as discussed in part 1) can be destroyed by abNormal conditions. If a producer consistently fails to receive the Normal response from its intended consumers, consumers will eventually come to cease trying to get their purpose across by means of using language in conventional ways. And if speakers do not use linguistic forms Normally, a hearer will soon stop trying to extract useful information from them from which to form beliefs (1984: 31). To take an obvious example, just think about being placed in a country where the inhabitants speak a different language. If you approach a person and try to get information from them by using the inquisitive mood, but they do not respond by using language forms that you understand, conditions are abNormal for the use of the inquisitive mood in one’s language and meaning has broken down. In such a case the stabilizing function that coordinates speaker and hearer fails since the speaker and hearer are not adapted to one another. You may try your luck with a few other people hoping that one of them will be adapted to respond to your language production, but after a few tries you will soon stop trying to communicate with others by the means of your native language. The same goes if someone approaches you and begins producing sounds to which you are not properly adapted for interpreting. You will soon either try to communicate in some other way, by gestures perhaps, and thereby try to direct the person to someone who may be able to help, but you will eventually cease to try to communicate by using your language.
Meaning can be destroyed in less extreme cases as well. Take the case of the use of the indicative, or fact-stating, linguistic mood. Its stabilizing function is to produce true beliefs in its listeners and it does this Normally when the speaker/producer has a true belief, communicates this fact to the listener/consumer, and they then come to possess a true belief (1984: 53). If listeners were not liable to obtain true beliefs from speakers sufficiently often they would soon stop forming the belief that corresponds to the utterances of speakers, and if listeners were not going to convert one’s utterances into beliefs, speakers would stop trying to communicate by using these language forms. The stabilizing function of the indicative mood can thus be undermined by abNormality when the speaker does not have a true belief (but thinks they do), has true beliefs but intentionally spreads a false statement (lies), or when the consumer misunderstands or refuses to believe the statement (1984: 55). For example, if a group or individual has been shown to have spread false information sufficiently often, people will longer trust what is being told to them. And someone who is so stubborn that they refuse to believe anything that is told to them will soon find that few people will make the effort to tell them anything. This discussion of how the successful functioning of the indicative mood both requires and reinforces honesty on the part of the speaker, and requires and reinforces trust on the part of the listener should begin to illuminate how this approach applies to the study of social capital where honesty and trust have been central topics (2005: 16).
We are now in a position to address the nature of social capital and how diversity undermines it. The result of the preceding discussion is this: social capital exists to the extent that interpersonal stabilizing functions proceed Normally, and is lost to the extent that abNormal conditions prevent successful functioning. Social capital just is the presence of Normal conditions for interpersonal stabilizing function and diversity destroys social capital by preventing the successful performance of this function. The study of social capital should thus be the study of how people coordinate and cooperate and so arrive at stabilizing functions, and what factors inhibit or prevent successful coordination.
In the social capital literature there is a distinction between society-wide macro social capital, and interpersonal micro social capital, and another distinction between “bonding” social capital within groups and “bridging” social capital between groups. The account I have presented here cuts across the bridging/bonding and micro/macro debates in the social capital literature as it equally applies to all these types. As far as bonding social capital, the value of biosemantics to the study of social capital is that it allows us to understand what the bonds of bonding social capital are, how the mechanism of bonding occurs, what its function is (see Putnam 2000: 22). These bonds have previously been taken as primitives, as automatic, with vague gestures towards a supposed brute fact that “birds of a feather flock together.” The existence and nature of interpersonal stabilizing proper functions provides us with a detailed account of this bonding mechanism and how stabilization may be achieved.
Macro-level stabilizing functions–society-wide cooperation among those who “can hardly be said to know each another” (Halpern 2005: 16)–have stabilizing functions as well. The societal conventions involved in obeying the rules of traffic, sharing standards of attire, cooperating with other pedestrians, or sharing a common language by which to communicate, are all stabilizing functions. The difference between micro-level and macro-level social capital lies not in the type of substances involved, but in the nature of the concepts involved. The concepts involved in these macro-level interactions are temporary and are discarded once the interaction is over; as when we only possess the concept of the individual car in front of us for as long as we need to track it while driving. As soon as the car moves out of our vicinity we discard the concept like we discard the concept of our individual glass at a cocktail party when we can no longer keep track of it (2000: 80). Because of the fleetingness of these interactions it would be very inefficient for us to retain a concept of each individual we encounter. Thus macro-level social capital must involve society-wide stabilizing functions that do not rely on enduring concepts of individuals. The way to make sure these conventions are followed is to have them widely adopted so that each individual can be assured that others are following the conventions without needing information about the distinct individual with whom we need to coordinate (2005: 12).
Micro-level interactions such as the strength and reliability of an individual’s personal networks are equally stabilized, the difference being that the bonds can be stronger to the extent that one can form enduring concepts of the individuals involved and thus track those involved in the recurring cooperation, and through experience build degrees of trust that would be impossible when dealing with strangers and the many individuals that are encountered in traffic or crowds. In high social capital, tight-knit communities, the subjects might possess a concept of an individual that lasts for the subject’s entire life and includes information stretching back for decades to include familiarity with the individual’s family and ancestors.
The nature of bridging social capital will be discussed in part 3.
I will now provide some examples of how this argument may be applied to the problem of diversity. This is not meant to be an exhaustive inventory of the ways that diversity undermines social capital and other cases surely exist. We have already discussed case 1, how the alienation that results from being in the presence of those who can not understand one’s language—that is, where a producer reproduces a linguistic form in the absence of a Normal consumer—will eventually result in the producer to stop producing. This is what Putnam refers to as “hunkering down” or “drawing in as a turtle” (2007: 149). But it is not only the failure to possess a common language that can produce this effect. Case 2: the collection of distinctive inflections, phonemes, and emphasis that we call a regional accent has its stabilizing functions. Accents standardize the pronunciation of words so that they may be reidentified by the listener each tome they are spoken. Simply not possessing the accent that is commonly used in a region is alienating. If one feels that one’s listeners are not picking up on the subtleties that are conveyed with an accent, that they are not adapted to the conventions on how words are to be pronounced, meaning decay is the result of this breakdown in the stabilizing proper function of this use of language, and one will quickly either adapt to and adopt the regional accent, or go find others with whom one is already coordinated and so are able to appreciate it. What usually happens is that people who move to a new region come to adopt the local accent as a means of coordinating with those with whom one must communicate and thus remove the alienation and enjoy the benefits of coordination.
Dysfunction can occur among intentional representations other than spoken human language. For example, case 3, one way people adopt conventions is in the way they coordinate their appearance. In schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and any other group or sub-group you will find a high degree of coordination of appearance. The way new styles of attire are selected and reproduced and thus spread through a population are extremely complicated and varied. Yet enough can be said here to make the point. One benefit of this coordination is that individuals are thereby able to blend in with one another in order to not attract unwanted attention. (On the other hand, there are those who take advantage of the coordinating conventions and intentionally violate them specifically in order to stand out and attract attention.) Another reason for adopting these conventions is the same for having spoken language; people are capable of communicating things about themselves by their choice of attire. You can communicate wealth, or sophistication, or even political and social views, or kind membership (see section 3) by choice of attire. In your appearance you wear your history on your sleeve, as it were. The phenomenon of people coordinating their appearances by adoption of common styles of dress because of what this “says” about you qualifies these items as intentional icons, and members of these kinds are in on this language just as much as they are in on the co-adaptations involved in speaking the shared language.
I have already mentioned as an example the stripes that are worn by soldiers to indicate rank and proscribe appropriate behavior. When one displays an intentional icon amongst those who are not the Normal consumers, meaning decay will result. For instance, the meaning of the stripes on a soldiers uniform decays when worn among civilians who do not know their significance. It is being produced, but the Normal consumers (other members of the military) are missing. From the consumer’s side, seeing someone wearing something with obvious meaning, but for whom you are not historically attuned, causes alienation and meaning decay as well. Examples of this are the Muslim head scarf and other religious and/or cultural garb when worn among those brought up in different traditions. The head scarf is a sign of modesty, and it indicates this Normally when the wearer and perceiver are historically adapted to interpret it is this way. In such a case meaning decay and alienation does not occur merely because one does not understand the meaning, something which might quickly be corrected by doing research or by asking, it is that when worn amongst non-members it also indicates that you are outside the Normal producer/consumer pair. It thus produces alienation and its corresponding destruction of social capital.
Further examples are, case 4, how different cultures have different conventions for the proper distance to stand from one another when conversing. Having someone stand closer or further away than you are accustomed to when having a conversation is a result of miscoordination, and produces that awkward uncomfortable feeling which results from alienation. Offering to shake hands when your consumer is prepared for a bow produces a similar result. Listeners that react to you in unexpected ways, have different habits, or mannerisms—all of which have been replicated and selected–will produce similar results. And just imagine the effect on social capital if cultural diversity was allowed to the extent that individuals could retain varying customs regarding which side of the road on which to drive.
The most extreme case is case 5, where moral standards differ between populations. Whatever account one may accept of the origins of morality, moral behavior remains in practice in a population for a reason. In other words, moral behavior has a stabilizing function. Someone performing an act which they believe to be moral, but others believe to be immoral, destroys this stabilizing function of moral behavior and is a more devastating blow to social capital than any other case. Being in the presence of those behaving in ways that one deems immoral but others find perfectly acceptable is a very alienating experience. The presence of female genital mutilation, homophobia, abortion, animal cruelty, or any other practice that is deemed immoral by some in a population will cause severe destruction of social capital.
The conclusion is that since different cultures possess different accents, languages, standards of humor, reactions, morals, norms, gestures, etc., the greater the degree of cultural diversity, the greater the frequency of abNormal conditions and the corresponding destruction of social capital. It should thus be clear why social capital and diversity are incompatible, and why efforts to make diversity and social capital compatible are bound to fail. If we wish to bring about Normalcy of interpersonal stabilizing proper functions, this can only be done by co-adapting the partners of the stabilizing coordination. There are several ways we can do this: one way would be for the consumer to adopt the conventions of the producer’s language and customs and thus adapt to the producer. On the other hand, the producer could learn the language and customs of the consumer and so succeed in stabilization. Or, both the producer and consumer can abandon their coordinating conventions and adopt new ones. Or, the cultures can merge. All of these solutions would help to eliminate alienation by removing the signs of historical differences that cause it. But in all of these cases, the solution is to get rid of the diversity that is causing dysfunction and alienation and instead adopt common conventions that bring the producer and consumer into coordination. If social capital exists by the Normal performance of interpersonal stabilizing functions, and a diversity of differing conditions for interpersonal coordination will inevitably cause malfunctioning, it is only through the elimination of this conflicting diversity by both participants coming to adopt Normal partner roles that social capital can be maintained.
We conclude this discussion in part 3.