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The Role of Social Capital for Environmental Governance: A Socio- Ecological Critique

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ishihara, Hiroe; Pascual, Unai
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2178
Sector: Information & Knowledge
Social Organization
Subject(s): social capital--theory
collective action
social-ecological systems
Abstract: "This paper argues that the current Social Capital (SK) theories cannot explain why SK has the ability to create collective action; rather they mystify the process. To open the black box of SK, the paper will argue that; i) the ability of SK to foster collective action lies in its ability to create common knowledge and to proliferate it among the community members and; ii) which knowledge becomes common is a matter of symbolic power, as well as rational calculation. In other words, each agent has different cost and benefit according to their social position they occupy inside the social structure; however, for collective action to be successful we need to create a common understanding of our cost and our benefit. Here, symbolic power refers to the ability of the dominant group to impose their own perception of cost and benefit as common knowledge, jettisoning the other alternative as irrational and unthinkable. By further understanding SK in relation to symbolic power, we argue that we are able to capture two fundamental aspects of SK; i) agents do not have a free-hand to craft SK in term of rational behaviour, ii) at the same time, agents do not blindly follow the incentive mechanisms created by SK, instead they some times misunderstand and even challenge these mechanisms. This implies that SK is not a stable instrument to provide optimal solutions for market failure, nor a cheap enforcement mechanism for rules and norms. Creating collective action for CPR management is a more complex issue than the rational choice theory may suggest."

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