So­cial cap­i­tal

The Pak Banker - - 4ED­I­TO­RIAL - Dr Ak­mal Hus­sain

CAP­I­TAL within the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion has his­tor­i­cally been counter-posed to labour. In a sit­u­a­tion where the labour­ing class does not own any pro­duc­tive as­sets, work­ers are faced with a stark choice: to sell to the cap­i­tal­ist the one re­source they have, the ca­pac­ity to labour, or else starve.

Thus in its stylised form, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween cap­i­tal­ists and labour­ers is es­sen­tially a power re­la­tion­ship. In Pak­istan this is true for both in­dus­trial cap­i­tal as well as cap­i­tal­ist farm­ers. In the lat­ter case, the power of the land­lord drawn from con­trol over land is ac­cen­tu­ated in many cases by var­i­ous forms of peas­ant de­pen­dence, such as in­debt­ed­ness and the need for pro­tec­tion through the land­lord from co­er­cive ac­tion and ex­tor­tion by lo­cal state of­fi­cials. Thus the ba­sis of eco­nomic and so­cial in­equal­ity in Pak­istan is the highly un­equal dis­tri­bu­tion of pro­duc­tive as­sets and un­equal ac­cess over cap­i­tal mar­kets, pub­lic ser­vices and the process of gov­er­nance.

The per­sis­tence of such in­equal­ity leads to the sup­pres­sion of the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple and at the same time cre­ates a wide­spread sense of de­pri­va­tion and griev­ance. The con­straints on de­vel­op­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the peo­ple pre­vent sus­tained long-term growth. The sense of de­pri­va­tion un­der­mines the so­cial fab­ric. Both cre­ate the threat of ex­trem­ism which has now be­come the prin­ci­pal chal­lenge to both state and so­ci­ety. There­fore, ad­dress­ing eco­nomic and so­cial in­equal­ity is nec­es­sary to achieve long- term eco­nomic growth as well as na­tional in­tegrity.

One way in which the cur­rent acute eco­nomic in­equal­ity can be mit­i­gated is through the pro­vi­sion of equal op­por­tu­ni­ties to all cit­i­zens for the de­vel­op­ment of their hu­man ca­pa­bil­i­ties. One of the means of achiev­ing this is the cre­ation of so­cial cap­i­tal through the strength­en­ing of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the process of eco­nomic growth.

My ex­pe­ri­ence in or­gan­is­ing com­mu­ni­ties in nine dis­tricts of the Pun­jab as the first CEO of the Pun­jab Ru­ral Sup­port Pro­gramme in the 1990s as well as eval­u­a­tion of grass­roots eco­nomic ini­tia­tives in other parts of the coun­try, sug­gests that the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­nity con­scious­ness is key to the build­ing of so­cial cap­i­tal.

Poverty oc­curs when an in­di­vid­ual in a frag­mented com­mu­nity feels iso­lated, alone and a pas­sive vic­tim of the process of de­pri­va­tion. The in­di­vid­ual, there­fore, feels in­ca­pable of tak­ing ini­tia­tives to im­prove her/his eco­nomic and so­cial con­di­tion. So­cial mo­bil­i­sa­tion of the com­mu­nity es­sen­tially in­volves build­ing a sense of com­mu­nity iden­tity. The sense of be­ing alone and help­less gives way to col­lec­tive ac­tion through which each in­di­vid­ual is en­abled to get bet­ter ac­cess over credit mar­kets, skill train­ing fa­cil­i­ties and un­der­tak­ing in­come gen­er­at­ing projects. Thus com­mu­nity con­scious­ness en­ables the in­di­vid­ual to draw strength from the com­mu­nity and in turn give strength to it.

Em­pow­er­ment is achieved as mem­bers of the com­mu­nity are able to strive for in­di­vid­ual wel­fare through col­lab­ora- tive ac­tion. The in­di­vid­ual pros­pers by de­vel­op­ing hu­man ca­pa­bil­i­ties as she/he con­trib­utes to build­ing the hu­man, cap­i­tal and nat­u­ral re­source base of the com­mu­nity. A K Sen in his re­cent book ('Iden­tity and Vi­o­lence') ar­gues in a sim­i­lar vein and sug­gests that the sense of iden­tity with oth­ers in the com­mu­nity can be seen as a re­source, like cap­i­tal.

Over the last three decades I had the priv­i­lege to be part of a group of ac­tion re­searchers in South Asia who made a hum­ble con­tri­bu­tion to de­vel­op­ing the con­cept and prac­tice of a par­tic­u­lar form of what has been called Par­tic­i­pa­tory Devel­op­ment. (See Ponna Wig­naraja, Ak­mal Hus­sain, Harsh Sethi and Gane­shan Wig­naraja, Par­tic­i­pa­tory Devel­op­ment: Learn­ing from South Asia, United Na­tions Press Tokyo and Ox­ford Univer­sity Press Karachi, 1991.). It can be ar­gued that this par­tic­u­lar ap­proach to 'par­tic­i­pa­tory de­vel­op­ment' is a type of so­cial cap­i­tal for­ma­tion. It is also, in a sense, em­pow­er­ment of the poor.

As I have sug­gested in an­other book, par­tic­i­pa­tory de­vel­op­ment "specif­i­cally aims at achiev­ing a lo­cal­ized cap­i­tal ac­cu­mu­la­tion process based on the pro­gres­sive de­vel­op­ment of group iden­tity, skills de­vel­op­ment and lo­cal re­source gen­er­a­tion … the process of re­con­struct­ing a group iden­tity, of rais­ing con­scious­ness, of ac­quir­ing new skills and of up­grad­ing their knowl­edge base, pro­gres­sively im­parts to the poor a new power over the eco­nomic and so­cial forces that fash­ion their daily lives." ( See Ak­mal Hus­sain: Poverty Alle­vi­a­tion in Pak­istan, Van­guard Books, La­hore, 1994.).

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