Social capital as culture? Promoting cooperative action in Ghana

Porter, Gina and Lyon, Fergus ORCID logoORCID: (2006) Social capital as culture? Promoting cooperative action in Ghana. In: Culture and development in a globalizing world: geographies, actors and paradigms. Radcliffe, Sarah A., ed. Routledge, pp. 150-169. ISBN 9780415348775. [Book Section]

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In this chapter we focus on culture and its complex interconnections with the concept of social capital. Our study is set in the context of recent preoccupations of the World Bank (followed by other donors) with the concept of social capital itself and the related construct that it can be built in order to promote economic growth and development. The adoption of the social capital concept is perhaps the closest that the World Bank has come in recent years in its recognition of the potential linkages between local cultures (notably cultures of enterprise), economic growth and development. That is not to say that we agree that culture is social capital – or vice versa. Far from it, indeed! Our thesis is rather that the World Bank has taken up social capital in a highly essentialized form - as group cooperation per se - in its development initiatives, whilst at the same time congratulating itself on its adoption of a more culturally (as opposed to economistically) oriented development paradigm. The Bank’s conflation of social capital construction with group activities, and its consequent efforts to promote development through supporting group-based initiatives, far from illustrating a cultural turn in its development thinking, arguably reflect a continuing lack of sensitivity to cultural diversity and the specific geographical contexts within which diverse cultural registers (elite, popular and youth cultures, among others) evolve and interact (see also Nederveen Pieterse, this volume).

Following a brief introduction to the links between concepts of social capital and culture, we review recent development problems and donor activities in Ghana. We then present two rural case studies of group-based development interventions in Ghana’s coastal savanna to illustrate our argument that while culture is complex, multi-faceted and inextricably linked with place and time dynamics, recent development interventions seemingly emanating out of donors’ desire to build social capital have been based on very poor conceptualizations of culture.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research (CEEDR)
Item ID: 18897
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Culture and Development in a Globalizing World: Geographies, Actors and Paradigm on February 2nd 2006, available online:
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Depositing User: Stanislava Angelova
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2016 10:34
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 02:11

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