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Building community social capital

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Building community social capital

Author: Durston, John Physical Description: p. 103-118 Date: December 1999 ECLAC symbol: LC/G.2067-P


Social capital means the set of norms, institutions and organizations that promote trust and cooperation among persons in communities and also in wider society. In those formulations of the social capital paradigm (and of the neoinstitutional economics on which they are partly based); which focus on its collective manifestations, it is claimed that stable relationships based on trust and cooperation can reduce transaction costs, produce public goods and facilitate the constitution of social actors and even of sound civil societies. Community social capital is a particular form of social capital which comprises the informal content of institutions that aim to contribute to the common good. Even some of the foundational authors of the social capital paradigm have doubts about the feasibility of creating such capital in groups where it does not already exist. The peasant communities of Chiquimula (Guatemala); covered by the anti-poverty "Support Project for Small-scale Producers of Zacapa and Chiquimula" (PROZACHI); displayed a relatively individualistic culture of dependence and domination yet at the same time had a broad and dynamic repertoire of various norms, including some which could serve as a symbolic support for solidary and reciprocal practices. Chiquimula seemed to lack social capital institutions, but with the recovery of institutional practices of the past and the emergence of new contexts and opportunities for developing new group strategies it has been possible to create social capital in these communities, with external support and training, and thus turn an excluded sector into a social actor on the micro-regional scene.