2009 volume 41(2) pages 389 – 406
doi:10.1068/a40132

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Wilshusen P R, 2009, "Shades of social capital: elite persistence and the everyday politics of community forestry in southeastern Mexico" Environment and Planning A 41(2) 389 – 406

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Shades of social capital: elite persistence and the everyday politics of community forestry in southeastern Mexico

Peter R Wilshusen

Received 31 May 2007; in revised form 24 October 2007; published online 28 October 2008

Abstract. Social capital has been discussed widely as networks based in trust and reciprocity that can facilitate economic development, democratic governance, and sustainable natural-resource management. The concept has not been examined thoroughly as an analytical lens for understanding power relations. Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of practice I develop a relational and contextual view of social capital in order to explore the everyday political exchanges tied to a long-standing community forestry association in Quintana Roo, Mexico. I present a case study that recounts the emergence and decline of a timber-marketing fund to illustrate how elite actors from member communities (ejidos) maintain relative dominance within social networks over time. This Bourdieusian perspective on elite persistence exemplifies the downside of social capital but also reveals a cultural view of everyday politics that highlights tensions among long-standing practices (habitus) and formal and informal spheres of social interaction (fields).

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