Social capital, development, and access to resources in highland Ecuador

Anthony Bebbington, Thomas Perreault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Building on recent statements calling for greater emphasis on the roles of organized actors and civil society in development research, in this paper we analyze the utility of themes raised in current debates on social capital for pursuing such lines of inquiry. In particular, we develop a framework for linking social capital to discussions of sustainability, resource access, and livelihoods. The framework understands the sustainability of livelihoods and local economies in two dimensions: patterns of access to produced, human, natural, and social capital; and the role of social capital formation at different geographic scales in facilitating rural peoples' access to other forms of capital, both directly and through engaging with state, market, and other civil society actors. We then use the framework to discuss a case from highland Ecuador. The case study illustrates the ways in which social capital, in the form of community, federated, and national indigenous peoples' organizations and their institutional networks, has been built through four decades of external intervention. It also traces the various ways in which this social capital formation has widened household and community access to financial, natural, and human capital. In doing so it draws out some of the links among social capital formation, livelihood development, political change, and landscape transformation. The approach has implications for development, social movements, and political ecological research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-418
Number of pages24
JournalEconomic Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Andes
  • Civil society
  • Ecuador
  • NGO
  • Political ecology
  • Rural development
  • Social capital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics

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