“Look, why take a chance? At least that’s the way I look at it”
-Remo Gaggi, “Casino” (1995)
To borrow a phrase from Giovanni Dannato, “Scarcity of Social Capital Sustains Institutions”.
What some (not the quoted blogger) misunderstand is both how far this concept extends and how it functions in practice. This can be seen in three areas, the first part is which is below.
The first area has been covered in previous posts both on this Blog and so well in the above linked post. It is that social capital (broadly defined) is the single most important attribute to enter into almost all of the remaining cohesive institutions. It is also the single most important attribute to gain (at least) the Middle Class lifestyle, and even to be able to enter into social circles that may share at least some of a PRONies intellectual interests. The most limited in numbers or temperament an intellectual interest is, the more important this factor becomes.
The author would go so far as to state that the almost tautological definition of Social Capital in this context, with non-Elite-born PRONies of USG, is that they have the ability to enter into these circles, be they the Upper-Middle Class with a chance at the highest available positions or the less Elite positions. As also previously discussed, the almost exclusive chances to gain this Social Capital are by passing through the earlier levels of the USG education system and avoiding being knocked out of contention. As the opening referenced blog post discusses, that Social Capital is indeed the core “value added service” marketed by the USG Tertiary Education System.
A large part of the driving forces behind this is two underlying issues. The first underlying issue is that since at least 1981, and likely somewhere around 1973(1), the “pool” of available “slots” in the Near-Elite positions of USG has been on a steady downward trend in both quality (remuneration and status) and quantity (amount of positions). Note that many of these positions continued to grow in absolute terms because of prior “entrants” staying in their “status” or something close to it. This trend can be seen in such things as the declining inflation-adjusted pay of previously solid middle-class public positions, the 1990s purges of “middle management”, and even the emergence of “upper middle class” as a distinct routinely used term.
The second underlying issue has some overlap with the first. In short, for reasons of social status, a “social circle” or “group” or “faction”, particularly a quasi or semi-formal one inside a larger organization in at least some areas is performing a “trade” when they recruit and admit a prospective member. Stripped of the language of employment law, in theory someone (or multiple persons) are saying “this person will add to this group”. But the other side of the “trade” is that the prospective member has the social capital to not “subtract” from the group.
It is because the first underlying issue that the competition for these “slots” has become ever more ferocious, particularly for those without ties that would allow for “easier entry”. It is because of the second underlying issue that almost all existing organizations are willing and arguably required to engage in the elaborate cynicism of the “credentialism” and accepting what almost everyone knows is a system based on pre-selection at the prior levels.
In short, a fear of losing “social capital” themselves leads to a fear of “Subtraction by Addition”.
(1) The author would agree that a number of factors would argue for an earlier date.