Social Capital: From the Gringo’s Tale to the Colombian Reality

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May 2016
Paper author(s): 
Ben Fine
Juan Pablo Durán Ortiz
Poverty - Inequality - Aid Effectiveness

The current idea of “social capital” as driver of development and social change is not so much an illusion as a delusion. A justification for this emerges once power, class, conflict and context are explicitly brought to bear upon the social capital paradigm. This paper studies social capital in Colombia beginning with its initial definition proposed by Pierre Bourdieu in the early 1980s, with emphasis upon a contextualised reproduction and exercise of elite power. In this light, the real as opposed to the delusionary social capital can explain a great deal of the social and economic evolution of the country. For Colombia has been captured by the “social capital” of national elites, drug dealers and multinational firms, ably abetted by the US government. It has launched a campaign of systematic violence against its citizenry under the paper-thin ideology of development and the war against drugs and terrorism in order to accrue profits from evictions and land expropriation.


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