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Exploring 'Unseen' Social Capital in Community Participation

Exploring 'Unseen' Social Capital in Community Participation: Everyday Lives of Poor Mainland Chinese Migrants in Hong Kong

Sam Wong
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Exploring 'Unseen' Social Capital in Community Participation
    Book Description:

    This book argues that using social capital to eradicate poverty is less likely to succeed because the mainstream neoinstitutional approach mistakenly assumes that social capital necessarily benefits poor people. This inadequacy calls for a re-assessment of human motivations, institutional dynamics and structural complexity in social capital building. Using ethnographic and participatory methods, this book calls for an exploration of 'unseen' social capital which is intended to challenge the mainstream understanding of 'seen' social capital. As such this book is useful to policy makers and practitioners. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0105-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-12)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 13-14)
  4. Preface
    (pp. 15-16)
  5. 1 Building a ‘Pro-Poor’ Social Capital Framework
    (pp. 17-46)

    Social capital, in the form of social networks and trust, is generally known as resources generated from social interactions. How we understand the nature of social relationships in people’s everyday lives is, then, crucial for us in analysing the process of how social capital is formed, evolved, remade, and dissolved.

    The mainstream social capital approach, led by Robert Putnam and Michael Woolcock, regards social capital as the ‘missing link’ in poverty alleviation and as the ‘essential glue’ in binding people together. Dense social networks and high levels of trust among community members are claimed to have spill-over effects which facilitate...

  6. 2 Ethnography Alternative Research Methodology
    (pp. 47-72)

    The purpose of this chapter is twofold: firstly, it shows how the research was conducted, how data were generated and interpreted, and what research ethics were concerned, so that readers are able to actively engage with the research process and the text. Secondly, it is an attempt to offer an alternative methodological approach to social capital studies, other than the current mainstream quantitative research methods.

    As I pointed out in the introductory chapter, the aims of this research, and hence the methodology adopted, are to explore mainland Chinese migrants’ associational life in Hong Kong, and to examine the context, meanings,...

  7. 3 Historical and Cultural Contexts of Mainland Chinese Migrants in Hong Kong
    (pp. 73-96)

    Hong Kong is generally regarded as ‘a city of immigrants’ which suggests that the history of Hong Kong is largely one of migration (e.g., Choi 2001). While this popular discourse highlights the fact that migration is not a new phenomenon in Hong Kong and emphasises the role of migrants in the host society, it bears the risk of oversimplifying the complex processes of resettlement over time and denying the migrants’ subjectivity and the diverse migration experiences of different generations. This complexity is manifest in the need to change what we call migrants, from ‘refugees’, and ‘immigrants’ to ‘new arrivals’ in...

  8. 4 Investing in Social Capital? Considering the Paradoxes of Agency in Social Exchange
    (pp. 97-122)

    Neo-institutionalists argue that at the heart of the dilemmas of collective action lies incentive. The economic approach of institutions, which is largely based on the assumption of bounded rationality, suggests that individuals are selfish and calculating, and the temptation of free-riding is so strong that co-operation between individuals is impossible. To enforce collective action, the right institutional framework needs to be designed, so that individual incentives are aligned to be consistent with the desirable collective outcomes (World Bank 2003).

    The neo-institutional school makes two key assumptions regarding human behaviour, which distinguish it from the neo-classical approach. Firstly, this approach is...

  9. 5 ‘Getting the Social Relations Right’? Understanding Institutional Plurality and Dynamics
    (pp. 123-146)

    Social capital cannot be adequately understood without also analysing institutions. Mainstream institutional thinking, as I noted in chapter 1, is predominantly based on the economic model of institutions. Neo-institutional economists argue that the success of contractual relations lies in robust institutional designs, and that social relations and organisations are regarded as mediating institutions which enable and constrain human behaviours (North 1990). This institutional approach tends to focus on conscious construction of groups and rules to achieve intended outcomes. Based on the assumption that individuals are opportunistic and self-interested, it considers the use of sanctions as a necessary enforcement mechanism to...

  10. 6 Rethinking Authority and Power in the Structures of Relations
    (pp. 147-172)

    In the previous two chapters, I have discussed how the mainstream economic approach of institutions tends to restructure individuals’ incentives (i.e., agency, in chapter 4) and to redefine rules and roles (i.e., institutional arrangements, chapter 5) in order to enforce collective action. This chapter will focus on the issues of authority, examining how structural properties and arrangements help some poor people to obtain access to social capital while denying it to others. It also aims to enrich the current debate regarding power in the social capital literature. There is an increasing use of discourse of ‘power blindness’ to challenge the...

  11. 7 Conclusions and Policy Implications
    (pp. 173-194)

    Hulme (2000) suggests that the concept of social capital ‘has provided an opportunity to move beyond the confines of participation and to address broader issues of values and institutions’ (p. 6). This book has, however, argued that social capital building does not automatically improve the livelihoods of poor people. It has offered evidence to explain that the neo-institutional approach to social capital is inadequate for understanding three key aspects: individual motivation in utilising social capital, the institutional dynamics that makes institutional crafting problematic, and the structural complexity that enables some poor people to gain access to social capital while denying...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 195-196)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-208)
  14. Annex 1
    (pp. 209-212)
  15. Annex 2
    (pp. 213-216)
  16. Index
    (pp. 217-219)