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Social capital in poor communities: a case study from rural northern Peru

Torres Vitolas, Carlos Alberto (2011) Social capital in poor communities: a case study from rural northern Peru. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines the prospective value of social capital for developmental purposes. It contends that the role that social relationships play in poor actors’ efforts to cope with and move out of poverty needs to be assessed under a dual understanding of social structure, as both the medium and outcome of social action. The study adopts Bourdieu’s ‘theory of practice’ as its main theoretical approach. Actors’ investments in and uses of relationships were analysed in relation to their objective conditions—stocks of capital—and associated practices and strategies. Social capital was operationalised as both networks of relations (local, external, and vertical) and social resources (mediated access to assets of local economic relevance). This approach was empirically examined via a two-year longitudinal study that followed the experiences of residents of two poor rural villages located in the Department of Lambayeque, in Northern Peru, with regard to their quotidian practices and involvement in a participatory development intervention that conducted basic infrastructure, productive, and informational investments. The study used a mixed-method approach comprising in-depth and unstructured interviews with residents and project staff; household surveys (three waves); and participatory observation. The evidence obtained showed that residents make extensive use of their relationships for economic purposes. Most valuable social resources and connections, however, were unequally accessed by residents according to their levels of poverty. This unequal (re)production of social capital was found to be related to actors’ material conditions and quotidian practices. This social dynamic tended to be reproduced within the participatory intervention examined, leading to an unequal expansion of social capital and related benefits among its beneficiaries. The study concludes that the structural conditionality of the processes of using and building social capital makes it intimately associated with socioeconomic inequalities. The theoretical and practical implications of this work are discussed in the concluding chapter.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Carlos Alberto Torres Vitolas
Uncontrolled Keywords: social capital, Bourdieu, Peru, rural livelihoods, poverty.
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Tonkiss, Fran

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