Social Capital and Women Empowerment by monkey6


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									  Crime, Violence and Social Capital: Perspectives of Ubuntu
                           Philosophy as the anchor.

Crime is an affront to our sense of democracy. The principles of democracy give us all
certain freedoms, among which are the freedoms to go about one‟s business and
relationships without arbitrary and capricious interference. This interference may come
from the state, or from strangers, or more contentiously, from people with whom one has
a close relationship. When one‟s person or property is invaded there is invariably distress,
hurt and loss.

In general, government across the world takes a long time to achieve social results – it is
quick and easy to build physical infrastructure like roads, airports or establish
broadcasting casting systems. Social infrastructure is a bit more difficult to establish and
to maintain.

What we understand to be society is in actual fact a vast network of mutual agreements –
a broad array of embedded and sometimes institutionalised relationships. The increase of
crime and violence in general can cause people to be afraid of venturing out among their
fellow citizens. Every generation will tell their young that it was better in the old days –
when you could leave your doors unlocked, sleep with windows open, and leave your
keys in your car. Many have argued that (amongst other factors) today‟s society is
lacking social capital and that this is one of the major reasons why the crime rate is

Philosophy as a general category examines nature, society and thought in a holistic
perspective. Necessarily in understanding socio-economic dynamics it is critical to
appreciate the underpinning world view that shapes social reality.

In the African context Ubuntu Philosophy provides an all-round perspective on the
understanding of human beings interaction with nature and society. Therefore in
understanding the dynamics of crime, violence and the role of social capital in addressing
these challenges it is critical to underpin our approach with Ubuntu Philosophy.
Underscoring the centrality of Ubuntu in the understanding of social reality the African
National Congress in its January 8th 2007 statement said, “Ubuntu acknowledges the
truism that no person is an island, but an integral part of broader society and human kind,
and therefore that our individual fortunes are intimately connected to the fortunes of the

The South African society (like other societies) pays a high cost for crime, violence,
corruption and conflict. According to Moser and Holland (1997), in addition to costs to
society‟s health and economy, crime and violence have direct costs to social capital
building including:
   o Disaffection and migration of the urban middleclass;
   o Reduced access to social services;
   o Dysfunctional families; and
   o An overall climate of fear that replaces the spirit of co-operation and participation
       in community life

In their more recent work they underscore the importance of the „violence – poverty –
social institutions nexus… the relationship between poverty and violence is mediated
positively or negatively through social institutions, ranging from the family to informal
associations such as sport clubs and dance halls to formal organisations such as church,
schools, and police‟

People are social beings who are bound together in communities. People create a set of
values and rules in order to communicate with each other. There is nothing „natural‟
about these values and rules, but they are accepted by the society in order for the society
to be a civil place in which to live

Shared values and norms can reduce or keep low the level of community violence. People
who have informal relations with their neighbours can look out for each other and
„police‟ their neighbourhoods. In addition, inter – family social capital provides support
networks for family members overwhelmed by such stressors as poverty and
unemployment. This support can help to reduce drug abuse and domestic violence –
potential roots to patterns of violent behaviour.

Informal justice systems have developed within poor communities as a response to the
lack of law and order. For example in Dakar, Senegal, where people live in very close
quarters with few locks or alarms, social capital is a crucial security system. It is not
uncommon to witness a parading mass of cheering people who have apprehended a thief.
In some cases they will beat him or her before turning the culprit to the authorities.

Gang wars restrict mobility and social interaction between community members. This in
turn erodes the space for community association. In Jamaica, dance halls, youth clubs and
sport facilities no longer functioned because of the levels of violence. This is doubly
costly to society given that youth clubs are not only a place for young people to spend
time but it is also a special opportunity for them to learn and practice social capital,
reciprocity and shared values. In this case, violence and ebbing social cohesion spiral

According to Moser and Holland (1997), „violence can prevent the instillation or
maintenance of infrastructure, which in turn exacerbated crime and „war‟ and eroded
community level cohesion. Lack of infrastructure or its inadequate maintenance as a
direct consequence of violence could directly increase fear and mistrust and reduce
community space for association. In Maka Walk, Jamaica, local gang members broke
street lamps to facilitate robbing people at night. As a result, neighbours report that they
do not go out as often at night which impacts their social relations.

The stock of social capital that exists within communities can contributes to the
maintenance of social order, that is, to the prevention of crime. The fundamental task in
crime prevention is to work cross-sectorally and one result might be to turn potential
future offenders to good citizens.

We cannot understand crime without understanding the community we live in and the
dynamics and changes which lubricate and confront it. In this regard Ubuntu Philosophy
provides a world outlook for social cohesion wherein an individual is inextricably
intertwined with the universal. Violence and crime in society are invariably perpetrated
by a minority against the majority. By arousing values of solidarity and the consciousness
of social inclusion the social capital of the community can translate into a material force
that can conquer violence and crime. By educating society on the Philosophy of Ubuntu
we can level playing fields that ensure sharing in the material and spiritual riches of
society and help eradicate structural barriers that are the true authors of crime and


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