Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Masonry Builds Capital for its Members


A great many Masons have been leaders and contributors to their community in ways large and small. While it is true that there are far more Masons whose names would rouse no recognition except among their close family and friends, the list of famous Masons reads as a list of the most influential and productive (as well as famous and successful) people of the past three centuries.

The misunderstanding is that Masons have operated as some sinister, plotting society. The list of well known Masons that accomplished good is far longer than that of infamous Masons. This point does not requires proof here nor is relevant to this article. The point is why have Masons been this successful. There are many answers, but one may be rooted in sociological understanding of "soft capital".

Masons have been successful in develop the habits and perspectives that expose them to opportunity. It is a dynamic which Masons themselves seldom appreciate.

Masons by their participation in the Craft, increase their external social networks. In the practice of the Craft they learn to deal with each other in a cooperative and acceptable way that increases amity among each other. They also value and earn symbolic prestige (or symbolic capital) that is a gateway to real resources. All of these things are necessary for success and they are often termed by sociologist as "soft capital".

Sociologist often explain the concept of soft capital accumulation as such:

1. First, accept the kinship of their inner circle. Just as in families that requires privacy, trust, commonality and mutual high-prioritization placed upon the well being of a group over the long term. That comes from both introduction based upon commonality and a process of culturalization and purchase. It also comes from understanding and embracing a way of life. Optimally this way of life should encompass the ideology of mutual benefit, and of a particular social order.

2. Secondly they increase their cultural capital. Cultural capital (like all capital) is exclusionary by definition. It means discovering information, habits and approaches that are most effective and acceptable by their peers. The lack of cultural capital is a barrier, and this barrier prevents people from rising in the class and economic structure and thus gaining greater opportunity.

3. Then there are the relationships of social networks, known as social capital. That is the process of building relationships. There is limited trust and a high level of competition wherever social capital is most profitable. (Externalizing class lines allows each Mason to build social capital in a way that a competitive economic and social structure seldom permits.)

4. Sociologist have more recently expanded the notion of soft capital to include symbolic capital. When someone rises in any structure to offer leadership and service it connotes merit. And that is why of course, altruistic and/or ambitious people try to get into the best [insert institution or group] and then become officers and leaders. It opens the doors inclusion for some while excluding others who have a different set of connections and experiences. (Masonry instead encourages both the honorable status of all its members and has a number of positions to be fulfilled to maintain the function of the organization.)

Being productive by having more people work on together benefits everyone. And Masons develop the confidence and mindset of institution joining and building as a matter of course. And institution building is a matter of soft capital more than hard capital (i.e. currency.) And soft capital is often a prerequisite for acquiring tangible forms of capital as well.

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