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THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION: A CASE STUDY OF TURKISH GECEKONDU HOUSEHOLDS

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˘ SEBNEM EROGLU ¸
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF, United Kingdom. E-mail: S.Eroglu@kent.ac.uk Date received: January 2008; revised October 2008 ABSTRACT This paper seeks to understand what difference social capital makes to deprivation and what factors affect its capacity to deliver benefits. The study develops a clear-cut and empirically workable definition of social capital, and uses social exchange theories to distinguish between its reciprocal and power-based forms. The data is drawn from separate interviews with both partners of 17 households randomly sampled from a gecekondu settlement, participant observation and respondent diaries. Contrary to the dominant view, the research shows that the volume of social capital makes little difference to deprivation largely due to economic constraints. It also demonstrates the limited nature of its contributions to income generation, consumption and investment. Key words: Social capital, reciprocity, urban livelihoods, poverty, mixed methods, Gecekondu, Turkey

INTRODUCTION A dominant view that has gained particular support within World Bank-inspired research is that greater social capital leads to reduced poverty (Narayan & Pritchett 1999; Grootaert 2002). This paper calls into question this conventional wisdom about social capital by focusing on the lives of low-income gecekondu1 households from the capital city of Ankara. The aims are two-fold: (1) to examine the likely influences on the capacity of social capital to deliver benefits and (2) to evaluate its significance for income generation, consumption and investment. It is argued that no matter how great its volume, social capital is likely to make little difference to deprivation largely due to economic constraints. The paper has two parts. The first critically reviews the major conceptions of social capital, and introduces the theoretical framework used to explore the relationship between social capital and deprivation. The second

outlines the findings from research that forms part of a longitudinal study on household responses to poverty (Eroglu 2004). ˘ SOCIAL CAPITAL: CONCEPTUAL MATTERS The concept of social capital has been applied to micro, meso and macro-level research from a variety of disciplines and fields of study in order to understand a wide range of phenomena, including families and youth behavioural problems, schooling and education, collective action, community life, democracy and governance, economic development, health and wellbeing, household welfare, poverty, work and organisational behaviour. One generic problem with this body of research concerns the indiscriminate use of the term. This section seeks to overcome this problem by developing a clearcut theoretical framework for use in micro-level research. It then describes the main features of

Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie – 2010, Vol. 101, No. 1, pp. 37–54. © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

This particular understanding of social capital is too vague to avoid the indiscriminate use of the concept as there is a high risk of interpreting the term ‘resource’ in a very broad sense to include any means that serves an end within a given social interaction. in those conceptions which portray social capital as resources embedded in one’s social networks (see e. 118) refers to it as ‘a culture of trust and tolerance in which extensive networks of voluntary associations emerge’. Portes (1995. people generally take an interest in receiving material and/or immaterial rewards from social interaction (Blau 1968). and are empirically difficult to operationalise. p. social interaction can also have a ‘downside’ for example. Criticising Coleman’s approach for failing to specify those entities that enable individuals to attain their goals. in various senses of the word’ (1986. Neither do definitions which equate the concept with individuals’ network of connections fully address the boundary issue as .g. Inglehart 1997). p. Fukuyama 1995. Second. I find this view plausible because although economic motivations may not govern why people establish social relationships. However. even if these expectations are not oriented towards the economic sphere’. which. norms and trust – that facilitate co-operation and co-ordination for mutual benefit’. Lin 2001). For Putnam (1993. This is because. The boundary problem is evident. social capital denotes ‘varieties of entities with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspects of social structures. in contrast to the large part of the literature which takes for granted the view of social capital as an ‘absolute good’ or a ‘metaphor for advantage’ (e. impose restrictions on individual freedom or put ‘downward levelling pressures’ on the parties involved (Portes & Landolt 1996. 302). p. Portes and Sensenbrenner (1993. p. p. I shall now seek to develop a workable conception of social capital. More recently. An extensive review of existing theories of social capital would be an ideal starting point for this purpose. unlike scholars who argue that the term capital is inapplicable to social phenomena (see e. p. Coleman (1990) develops a similar © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU conception of social capital with a particular emphasis on its function. pp. (2000). and (3) empirically operationalisable. and they facilitate certain action of actors – whether persons or corporate actors – within the structure’ (Coleman 1990. I share the view that the term can be used as a metaphor to connote individual’s investment in social relations for expected returns (Lin 2001). besides providing benefits. 12) redefines social capital as the ‘capacity of individuals to command scarce resources by virtue of their membership in networks and or broader social structures’. for example. or ‘resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed and/or mobilised in purposive actions’ (Lin 2001. Similarly. Inglehart (1997. due to space limitations. scholars have begun to use the concept in order to depict an individual’s stock of social networks (Wellman & Frank 2001). In my view. the following review will only illustrate some of the key conceptions and their shortcomings (for adetailedreviewseee. Burt 2001). (2) ‘analytically productive’. a “credential” which entitles them to credit. In his subsequent work. I shall start by clarifying the position taken here in relation to earlier theoretical debates about social capital. Fine & Green 2002). I see social capital as being a neutral phenomenon. there are two major limitations with the definitions presented above. First. 2003. 167). to membership in a group – which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital.Eroglu2004). 1323) propose an alternative definition where social capital is construed as ‘expectations for action within a collectivity that affect the economic goals and goal-seeking behaviour of its members.Field2003. For him. as shown by earlier studies. needs to be: (1) based on existing theoretical frameworks. Bourdieu 1986. according to Schuller et al. social capital signifies the ‘features of social life – networks. Cleaver 2005).g.g. ˘ The French sociologist Bourdieu refers to social capital as an ‘aggregate of the actual and potential resources which are linked to the possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in other words. 12). They fail to offer clear-cut boundaries for the concept. Independently of Bourdieu. it can be exclusive. Van Staveren. Another widely held perspective views social capital as a generalised disposition to trust (Putnam 1993.g. 248–249).38 the household response model developed to explore the possible links between social capital and other influences on deprivation.

The point of distinction between them lies in the reciprocity element. Kalaycıoglu & Rittersberger-Tılıç 2001). etc. which can be operationalised for example. 91). these transactions share two basic characteristics. exchange transactions take the form of ‘generalized reciprocity’. I ˘ shall use the term social capital in a broader sense than Pizzorno to refer to relatively durable social contacts established inside or outside the market sphere. while Sahlins (1974) extends it also to include unrewarding transactions as well. Bourdieu’s definition is operationally problematic due to its dual character. I consider these contacts to have a potential downside as well as a capacity to deliver material and non-material benefits. at the solidarity end. 193–194) refer to ‘putatively altruistic © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG . In between is ‘balanced reciprocity’ based on the simultaneous exchange of exactly the same types and quantities of goods within a finite and limited period. ‘negative reciprocity’. a social transaction is regarded as ‘reciprocal’ when the parties meet the obligation to reciprocate on an ‘equal’ footing. Likewise. This is to suggest that social capital can act as a resource in which individual agents invest and which they use to gain access to information. Thus. due to the difficulty of measuring how trusting people or nations are. a sound response to the conceptual and empirical limitations of the above definitions comes from Pizzorno who construes social capital as ‘the relations in which more or less durable identity of participants are recognized’ (2001. 5). I believe Pizzorno’s idea of excluding the market from the domain of social capital is rather problematic given the evidence that informal transactions can take place between employers and employees (White 1994. A social transaction is considered to be ‘unilateral’ when the parties fail to reciprocate on an ‘equal’ footing. by which Sahlins (1974. For Blau. voluntary and rewarding. Field 2003). The empirical shortcomings of the concept are also evident in the trust-based definitions. Blau refers to social exchange as ‘voluntary actions of individuals which are motivated by returns they are expected to bring and typically do in fact bring from others’ (1964. Blau’s definition limits social exchange to actions. p. money. jobs. pp. where each party is seeking to obtain an advantage at the expense of others. However. drawing on the idea that social exchange is situated between the unsociability and solidarity extremes. by asking whether the respondent intends to maintain links with a given social contact in the foreseeable future. services. It seems that for Bourdieu. However. social capital embraces the social relationship itself that allows agents to claim access to resources embedded in these networks. trust and pretence of disinterested generosity. is located at the ‘unsociable extreme’. the distinction drawn between the ‘bridging’ and ‘bonding’ capital has attracted the most attention (Woolcock 1998. This type of transaction implies a direct cost of subordination for the subjects of power. Scholars now speak of a third dimension called ‘linking social capital’ (Halpern 2005). rendering such classifications rather less workable. In developing this concept further. On the other hand. This duality poses an empirical problem for poverty studies by preventing us from drawing a clear contrast between social contacts and the outcomes of likely interactions between these contacts. I propose that social exchange theories can be used in developing an alternative classification of social capital since the flow of benefits in a social environment is mediated by the rules of social exchange (Bourdieu 1986). The classification advanced here draws on a synthesis of Blau (1964) and Sahlins’s (1974) approaches. which are rational. The body of relationships described above as social capital is by no means uniform in character. p. namely.THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION it remains unclear in what ways social capital is distinct from social networks. the literature offers 39 no reliable explanation as to which aspects of social capital give it a distinctively bridging or bonding character. Putnam 2000. This study favours the latter as it is better suited to the idea that social capital can have a downside. Sahlins (1974) identifies three distinct forms of reciprocal transaction. as well as the amount and quality of the network resources (see also Portes 1998). Pizzorno’s definition offers well-defined boundaries for the term. My classification of social capital rests partly on Blau’s (1964) contention that social exchange transactions can either be ‘unilateral’ or ‘reciprocal’ in nature. which in turn creates power differentials between them. Finally. Accordingly. In my view. goods. Of various types of social capital identified previously.

clientelism is understood as a ‘political machine’ by which mass-based parties mobilise political support (Nelson 1979. ˘ So far. including social capital. The advantages of this framework are as follows.g. The above hybrid of social exchange theories leads me to identify two major forms of social capital. This theoretical framework is of particular significance in that it advocates a ‘people-centred approach’ to understanding poverty. disposable time. monetary.g. Carney et al. it avoids the indiscriminate use of the term. consumption and work-related). Nelson 1979. I have sought to develop a theoretical framework which specifies the boundaries of social capital and which offers an alternative way to distinguish between its different forms.g. In the political science literature. whose significance for the lives of low-income urban groups is welldocumented (Lomnitz 1977.g. One refers to reciprocal contacts with which one enters into social transactions on a balanced or generalised basis.g. 1999. Heper 1982. Roberts 1991). Finally. The anthropological literature refers to it as a specific type of dyadic relationship. Two broad clusters of meanings are attributed to the term clientelism. relationships of subordination and various other constraints on the flow of benefits.3 The other two influences are: (1) the wider structure. rights of access to social security) and public resources (e. Burgwal 1995). There are however certain limitations with this framework. Second.40 transactions’ where assistance is provided and returned if possible and when necessary. the structural influences on livelihood resources. The measurement developed as part of this model combines three ‘objective’ dimensions of deprivation (i. The household response model advanced here extends the livelihood framework so as to overcome these common drawbacks (see also Eroglu 2004). the main drawbacks include: (1) the limited coverage of key resources. it allows an emphasis on the instrumentality of social relationships as a potential resource with varying capacities to deliver benefits. focusing on the absence of living standards that are deemed critical to maintaining a decent life. one of which concerns the composition of household resource portfolio. bodily resources (e. Other resources include labour power. sometimes with the intention to accumulate advantage at the expense of others. financial and non-financial assets). Banck 1986). Eisenstadt & Roniger 1984. The other involves powerbased contacts with which one complies in exchange for the benefits such compliance produces. formal and informal skills). institutional entitlements (e. ˘ The model focuses on three key influences on poverty. (2) the narrow definition of poverty. which ties people with unequal status or power and which depends on exchange of favours between these actors (Boissevain 1974. human organs). economic capital (e. Social capital is treated as one of eight resources potentially contained in this portfolio.g. First of all. Scott 1977. Chubb 1982. and (2) household characteristics. The latter is in my view embodied within patron-client relationships. at least theoretically. public land).2 and (3) the lack of a behavioural dimension to demonstrate systematically how resources are deployed within different responses to poverty. In my view. Norris 1988. as well as offering a sound basis for its operationalisation. For example. ˘ The model explores the multiple dimensions of poverty from a deprivation perspective. and weights them according to subjective perceptions of respondents regarding which items are more critical to deprivation (Eroglu 2007). I shall now focus on how the relationships between social capital and other influences on poverty can be conceptualised. a stage in the life-cycle can impact upon deprivation through its influence on the availability of labour resources. Moser 1996). and the competition between formal and informal sectors of the . cultural capital (e. it provides further insight into the ‘downside of social capital’ through a focus on the negative forms of reciprocity. I conceive of clientelism as a form of ‘unilateral exchange’ where the transaction of favours between parties depends on the compliance of the less powerful party (Eroglu 2000). which are hypothesised to affect poverty by virtue of their role in determining the availability and/or the benefit delivery capacity of household resources.e. affect the lives of impoverished urban and rural groups (see e. while exploring. Much recent poverty research draws on variations of what is widely referred to as the © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU ‘livelihood framework’ in order to understand how the use of various resources.

g. The age restriction was imposed on one child to control for the stage in the life cycle. RESEARCH METHOD The research focused on two key questions: to what extent does social capital make a difference to deprivation. namely. hence this study focuses on the first three areas only. by acting as a source of assets or loans. This part of the study however made little use of over-time comparisons. In all but one household both partners were interviewed separately on both occasions. investment and intrahousehold income allocation. I assumed such differences might give rise to variation in household resources and behaviour patterns. The model also identifies four areas in which households devise responses to poverty by using the resources available to them. The data was obtained from semi-structured interviews. These gecekondu features made it possible to meet the research aims through a study of a single locality. for example. a probability sample could have been drawn across the city or from different localities. Social capital can potentially be of direct or indirect use in asset acquisition. including gecekondu dwellers. the religion criterion was included to represent the two largest Islamic sects in Turkey. participant observation and respondent diaries. noncommodified consumption characterises those practices that take place in the absence of cash transactions (e. (4) one child at or above the age of 15. and what factors impact upon its capacity to deliver benefits? The data was drawn from a broader longitudinal study of low-income gecekondu households (Eroglu ˘ 2004). The study indeed benefited from the extended time spent in one location as trust building proved to be a gradual process. This section has sought to provide a conceptual framework for micro-level research aimed at exploring the relationships between social capital and poverty. The research setting was selected to increase the likelihood of finding households that meet the eligibility criteria.5 Income generation involves those activities whereby households mobilise various resources to obtain a monetary income. The reasons for introducing the eligibility criteria were as follows. free access to national health services). The interviews were conducted in April and October 2002. as in the transfer of remittances.THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION economy can restrict the capacity of these resources to generate an income. The sample consisted of 17 households randomly selected9 from a typical gecekondu settlement in Ankara. for example. Consumption embraces those activities situated on a continuum of commodified to non-commodified spheres. The income threshold which compro˙¸ mises between TÜRK-IS (The Confederation of Turkish Labour Trade Unions) Starvation and Poverty Lines7 was used to identify poor households. However. The particular role played by social capital in these activities can be direct. it was considered to be more suitable to choose the setting from gecekondu areas given their higher incidence of poverty (Bulutay 1998) and the heterogeneity in their inhabitants’ levels of poverty. The household size and structure were selected to reflect the typical characteristics of urban households in Turkey. or indirect as in acting as a source of job information.8 Finally. the research focused on a single settlement. which tend to differ in their religious practices.4 The last area bears no direct relevance to the deployment of social capital. for instance. Thus. In principle. income generation. The following section outlines the research design and methodology used to apply this framework in the field. lifestyles and their approach to women. political viewpoints. (3) nuclear structure. The eligible households had to have: (1) an average monthly income below USr370. Investment includes those practices whereby households acquire financial and non-financial assets. based on the presumption that this would encourage the building of trust required to minimise sample attrition and to enhance data quality. which predominantly consisted of pre-1985 rural to urban migrants from the surroundings of Ankara or other parts of Central Anatolia (Alpar & Yener 1991. Hence. The use of this continuum is critical to understanding deprivation because it allows us to assess household resources in terms of their capacity both to provide access to certain goods and services and to counteract income shortfalls. and (5) Sunni and Alevi religious backgrounds.6 (2) four 41 members. Participant observation was conducted over a three month period. during © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG . according to the extent of cash transactions involved. consumption. Güvenç 2001).

access e. Grootaert et al. Given the sample size. income/work ratio. debts. although its degree of significance compared with other resources such as cultural capital varies from one case to another (Grootaert 1998. the quantitative analyses drew on descriptive statistics only (e. It follows that other factors must play a more crucial © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU Table 1. This is to say that volume may have little bearing upon the benefit delivery capacity of social capital. pension prospects. benefit providers vs recipients). Narayan & Pritchett 1999. The information about social contacts was elicited through asking situational questions concerning various forms of social support. indicating levels of average monthly income. (2) Household deprivation levels were measured by using an index which combined monetary. Therefore. I chose to rank order households into groups with low. self-interest and doubts about the creditworthiness of the needy.g. norms of reciprocity and their effects on the flow of benefits. 2000. and weighted them according to subjective perceptions of respondents regarding which items are more crucial to deprivation The index contained a total of 23 measures. education and health. Grootaert & Narayan 2001. ˘ role. 2002). On the side of providers. The qualitative analyses shed particular light on the dynamics of social capital. medium and high volume of social capital. The ranks were formed by using cut-off points obtained through the SPSS frequency facility. my research indicated that the relationship between the volume of social capital and deprivation may not be as straightforward. the picture is bound to remain partial. household items. major constraints were found to include their limited economic capacity. given the tendency for both better and worse off households to have low levels of social capital (see Table 1). Rose 1999. I shall now outline some of these forces from the viewpoint of the parties situated on either end of an exchange transaction (i. Deprivation categories were then formed by using cut-off points obtained through the SPSS frequency facility (for further information see Eroglu 2007).e. Social capital stocks of the sample households were essentially . This finding can be interpreted as meaning that having a greater number of social contacts implies very little about the quality and quantity of the benefits obtained from them. consumption and investment. The study combined quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine the relationship between social capital and deprivation. drawing on my qualitative interviews. urban services. However. Despite concerted efforts to determine the precise extent of each household’s social contacts. cross-tabulations and frequencies).42 the stages of sampling and interviewing. Social capital volume Deprivation category Worse off Low Medium High Total 3 2 1 6 Moderate Better off 2 3 1 6 5 7 5 17 Total – 2 3 5 Notes : (1) The social capital volumes were determined by counting the number of social contacts which were reported in either interview to be helpful or unhelpful but active in April and expected to remain so in the foreseeable future. and to identify tendencies for households’ use of social capital in their responses to poverty. occupational health and safety. most of which the researcher spent staying with a gecekondu household from the studied settlement. HOW FAR DOES SOCIAL CAPITAL MATTER TO DEPRIVATION? This section starts by exploring various influences on the overall capacity of social capital to deliver benefits.g. consumption and work-related dimensions of deprivation. and then evaluates its significance for income generation. The overall relationship between social capital and deprivation – Previous studies have established that greater social capital leads to reduced poverty or increased welfare. to housing. based on the scores obtained. The weights for the selected measures were obtained through a unique application of factor analysis to data on respondent views of deprivation. financial and non-financial assets. Maluccio et al. By contrast. Volume of social capital by household deprivation category. for example. Qualitative data and theoretical knowledge accumulated through literature review were used as a basis for the casual inferences made from the observed tabulations. etc. further research is needed to test the applicability of these conclusions to a wider population.

. Gonzales de la Rocha 2001. and hence a large part of their stocks had limited economic capacity to deliver benefits. The extract from an interview with a male spouse illustrates the latter response: Interviewer: Are you in touch with your sister in Germany? DY: She is rich but we are poor so she does not approach . the limited economic ability to reciprocate. In addition. That’s all we could do with neighbours. . they stay away from everybody. like your neighbours? SX: Not really. we can’t do much else. . Bora 2002. my children did though when they had any money. Maybe if she approaches a little more. Most importantly. In some cases. . Her in-laws circle is also poor . . I can’t make the necessary return . They do not help because we do not have anyone working. . the lack of economic capacity posed a constraint by evoking the fear of not being able to reciprocate on an ‘equal’ footing and thereby becoming dependent on others. The guy did not agree. The predominance of social contacts with limited economic capacity created further disadvantage where one or both spouses had extensive family networks. another would say ‘I do not have coal’.THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION composed of people in similar economic circumstances to themselves. This was the case because the abundance of needy kin located at an equal social distance made it impractical for the few financially well off contacts to support them all. it led to the withdrawal of support altogether. That might be why. Bugra & ¸ ˘ Keyder 2003. the other would say ‘I am thirsty’. These were at play especially when the type of support needed had an economic aspect to it. He [her husband] went to his uncle’s son to say ‘come and become a shareholder of the bakery or I shall give it to you’. This capacity seems to have been further weakened by the severe conditions of economic crisis. concerns about self-interest and creditworthiness of the needy also constrained the flow of support. This is evident from the following quotation extracted from an interview with the female spouse of a ‘worse off ’ household: Interviewer: Do you ask for help from anyone. . He said ‘I know nothing about the business. my money is enough for me’. a mother and a father [to support]. Interviewer: How about neighbours and the like? EX: We did not get anything from them. and concerns for pride and independence were found to constrain the benefit delivery capacity of social capital. World Bank 2003). . Turning to the recipients’ side. . Paradoxically. today let’s say I need tea or oil or one day I don’t happen to have any tomato paste . one of my siblings would say ‘I am hungry’. Sen 2002. (2) Interviewer: Is there anyone else whom we have not talked about so far but who helped you since our first interview? EX: No one got any job done for me. In others. The limited economic ability to reciprocate either discouraged households from seeking support or led them to take part in balanced reciprocal transactions as far as their resources allowed. . the ‘worse off ’11 households who were most in need of such support tended to be more affected since they had the least economic ability to reciprocate. perhaps in order not to give rise to feelings of discrimination and resentment on the part of the unsupported. They stay away. .10 Past findings on Turkey and other parts of the world also confirm a decline in the capacity of support networks in circumstances of economic hardship and recession (Moser 1996. on top of them. for example. This is well illustrated by the following extracts taken from the interviews with female partners of two ‘worse off ’ households: 43 (1) Interviewer: Is there anyone else whom we have not talked about so far but who helped you since our first interview? JX: I swear there was no one . for instance . the limited availability of financial means led to the selective provision of support. and another would say ‘I do not have wood’. . . It seems that the conditions of economic © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG . . I mean. Interviewer: Why not? JX: One of those things. where priority was given to the most impoverished. They used to help before when [I] wanted but now they don’t as we don’t have any security. Interviewer: Why not? SX: Well.

we used to have a dialogue. she’ll come to drink at my place.]. Currently I had to because of unemployment . balanced reciprocal transactions meant a restricted flow of benefits since such transactions virtually confined their level of gain to what they could offer within their limited means. it remained in the old days. I have such a character. HY: Neighbours do come to me and ask for money. This is evident from the extract below: Interviewer: It appears that you had some support from your circle. so I’d better sit and drink it at my own place’. I’d rather go on foot but wouldn’t go and ask for it. then ten ¸ ¸ billion out of this. I don’t want to get my pride hurt. HY: Nothing because we wouldn’t say anything. Interviewer: Why is that? AY: The full stomach would know nothing of the empty stomach . . The first is from an interview with the female spouse of a ‘worse off’ household: Interviewer: Can you afford the medicine you have to pay for? CX: Well on many occasions we could not.44 crisis contributed to exchanges of this nature becoming predominant especially among neighbours and friends. . This is well illustrated by the common response to my enquiries about the receipt of social support: ‘everybody is just about able to look after themselves’. they’d say I shall make six kurus out of three kurus. Interviewer: Why? JX: Is it because people [in] poverty. those people who used to do you a favour without asking for the same in return. he could well work and earn money. [. The tendency for both spouses across all deprivation groups was to take pride in the male role as the main provider and/or the self-sufficiency of the family unit. people have become very different. Interviewer: Why do you think this happened? JX: I really don’t know. but where the female spouse was also present: Interviewer: What do your neighbours do in return for the help you provide? HX: Nothing. the thin sheet of bread. For poor households. That is © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU why the very act of asking for help was often perceived as a threat to masculine and/or family pride. concerns for pride were also found to constrain the benefit delivery capacity of social capital. Furthermore. then my pride would get hurt. We had such a community that I could hardly describe to you. I can’t go and ask for it from a neighbour. . JX: What kind of support is that? Interviewer: For instance. Now. I wouldn’t demand myself [. . . You cannot ask help of everybody. Even if he [one better off creditor] offered. this group of social contacts often had a limited economic capacity to deliver benefits. However. The last extract is from an interview with the male spouse of a ‘better off ’ household. The following extracts demonstrate how such perceived threats affected support-seeking behaviour.] I have a principle. Everybody is in agitation of his/her own survival. If I didn’t. . This was however not the case with the generalised reciprocal exchanges which were observed especially among close relatives. I don’t know. . I guess that’s what it’s about. . . Interviewer: Anyone help you with it at all? CX: You cannot ask anyone. . I should get it hundred per cent from the person I asked for. I don’t know what. or ask for a loan. Within the last three or four years. We used to visit the folks a lot. There’s such ambition for money. Is it because of poverty. we used to have things we gave and took. JX: Well but I’m making the same for them. or because there is crisis? [S]he says. HX: I don’t like at all telling my neighbours ‘give this or that to me’. ‘can you buy me medicine?’ It is a matter of pride. they are so different that . . I’d rather buy it on credit from the local shop. The second is from an interview with the male spouse of a ‘moderately deprived’ household: Interviewer: Can you call on these people [lenders] for help in the future? AY: No . He’d say there are jobs. Do you think they’d do without expecting a return? It was in the past. . . she perhaps says ‘if I drink a glass of tea at her place. Let’s say I’ll go to Ulus [market] and I don’t have money for the minibus in my pocket. Also when people are into making money. not even a single mortal of God visits each other.

I mean. they checked everywhere. which comprised 79 per cent of the working population in the sample. somebody informed us. This is well illustrated by an extract taken from an interview with the male spouse of a ‘better off’ household: MY: I moved here in the year 1987 or 88. 97 per cent of the working members were found to deploy their stocks of social capital for this purpose. Paradoxically. or to a lesser extent to obtain loans for their small-scale businesses. UPL 2000. One of the households was receiving from the parents of the male spouse a small amount for housekeeping and pocket money for kids on a fairly regular basis. and yet we couldn’t cosy up to [them]. Due to the extensive use of social capital in the urban labour market. ruralto-urban migrants. social capital was used more extensively in order to attain or maintain a status in the urban labour market. 45 So far. Furthermore. © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG . Another response was to seek support from selected sources where the perceived risk of refusal was minimal. we’re ultimately neighbours so we ended up doing whatever they wanted. who made a complaint against me?’ He said ‘I don’t know. pride seems to have restrained the flow of benefits. A large part of previous research on Turkey also confirms the extensive use of informal channels by lowincome groups such as gecekondu dwellers. Günes-Ayata 1991. There were two exceptions to this. Other constraints were found to affect both the provider and the receiver. I have now stopped it [welding for others] completely. By contrast. I shall now focus on the particular uses of social capital within various behavioural contexts. White 1994. However. since they were thought to lack empathy for the impoverished conditions of the potential recipient. All of the wage earners. they [officers] came from TEK [Turkish Electricity Institution]. he said ‘we came upon complaint’. Either way. we’d at least know our friends and enemies. Income generation – The households studied were found to make limited use of their social capital in order to obtain a monetary income. I wouldn’t say that I don’t have bread at our home. I asked ‘brother. 47 per cent of households reported that they had received monetary contributions to their monthly income from close relatives within the previous six months to one year. saying that ‘he’s using illegal electricity. and highlighted some of the key constraints on its capacity to deliver benefits. since then they [neighbours] were envious of me. The other household had access to considerable remittances12 sent from Germany once or twice a year by the female spouse’s children from her previous marriage. all the self-employed relied on social capital to find customers. It is clear that pride discouraged some households from seeking and accepting support even in cases of extreme need. in particular. When I first came. Competitive and conflictual influences within one’s social environment often led to negative reciprocal transactions.THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION HX: We don’t like showing our home situation to other people. financially well off contacts tended to be perceived as a high-risk group. and (2) personal and familial conflicts. which not only hampered the flow of benefits but also involved deliberate attempts at undermining the well being of the parties involved. Karpat 1976. this research is unable to examine whether those with job contacts were significantly better off than those without. oh let’s not be in trouble with the neighbours. I have discussed the overall relationship between social capital and deprivation. In fact. ¸ 1993. could find nothing. I’m making windows and doors. I have my own welding job here. made use of their social capital in seeking a job either on a one-off or continuous basis. Their use of social capital differed according to employment status and specific requirements of the work being sought. They make a complaint against me. and factory or piece workers in job search/recruitment processes (Yasa 1966. Erder 1996. most of these contributions were far from sizeable or regular in nature. Even if I’m hungry. These included: (1) competitive attitudes largely directed against perceived equals or those who are perceived as better off. Gökçe et al. If they revealed the name. those occurring between in-laws. brother. we went and helped with their construction so on so forth. he’s using illegal I don’t know what’! The other day. Across the sample. 2001). depending on whether their employment was regular or casual/seasonal in status. made a complaint.

2001). Interviewer: Why do you think this happened? JX: I don’t know everybody is like me . Interviewer: You had several clients? JX: There were. I took it to Dikmen. my research demonstrated no significant tendency for households with higher levels of social capital to be less deprived at work (see Table 2). Earlier research has drawn attention to the extent of social contacts as a key influence on the attainment of a better job (see e. . Not even a pair. To illustrate. Erikson 2001. This is supported by the following excerpt from an interview with a selfemployed female respondent who depended heavily on her social contacts to find buyers for the bootees she made and sold informally. took it to Mamak. However. © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU Table 2. So how about the status of the contact person used in finding a job? Does it significantly increase one’s chances of acquiring a better status? Previous studies explored this through a focus on occupational status. the ownership of extensive social capital meant very little in terms of facilitating the sales. Interviewer: How were your sales within the six months before April [2002]? JX: It was OK. The daughter-in-law[s] of my sister-in-law lives there. . . there is room to explore whether volume of social capital had an effect. Most of them consider it to be a key influence on job attainment (see e.g. Look. I had sales then.g. Marsden & Hulbert 1988. Boxman et al. one conclusion that can be drawn here is that the volume of social capital is likely to make little difference to the attainment or maintenance of a higher job status by the poor households. There were indeed and yet they hardly get by. Interviewer: How many bootees have you sold after me [our first interview]? JX: None . I took it to places my sister was acquainted with.46 Yet. household social security access ratio. it [the products] remains in the bag as the way it was. By contrast. there were lots of people I knew. I could not sell [any]. After you left. Due to crisis. They can’t afford to buy. My research indicated the significance of other factors. my embroidery edgings are resting too. Three work-related deprivation categories were then formed by using cut-off points obtained through the SPSS frequency facility. . one of the female spouses reported having found a regular job as a domestic worker through the help of her relatives who happened to work as caretakers in an apartment that belongs to the army. one recent study challenges this assertion by demonstrating that neither occupational nor educational status has a significant effect (Mouw 2003). how shall they buy? Interviewer: Did you take them [the products] here and there? JX: Wouldn’t I do that? Of course I did. It may follow from this that those connected to a greater number of people were not necessarily able to attain or maintain a better status in the labour market. I didn’t sell even one. Interviewer: Oh really? JX: I swear . She was from a worse-off household and the volume of the social capital possessed by this household was one of the highest. Since her relatives were based in the . This extract illustrates that in the face of economic crisis which seems to have caused a gradual but persistent deterioration in people’s purchasing power. I took it [the bag] to my villagers. . Lin et al. no one [could afford]. Social capital Work-related deprivation category High Low Medium High Total 2 2 2 6 Moderate 2 1 2 5 Low 1 4 1 6 5 7 5 17 Total Note : (1) Work-related deprivation levels were estimated by using a weighted sub-index which included four measures: household income/hours worked ratio. It was not worth the travel fares I paid. male spouse’s pension prospects and household occupational risk ratio. I came back without even selling one. such as location of work. I shall bring the bag if you’d like to have a look. Interviewer: Not even a single pair? JX: I sold not even a pair. 1999). Bearing in mind that the observed tendencies might be specific to the economic crisis conditions. Volume of social capital by work-related deprivation category. .

There were indeed a few cases where the patrons were deemed equally deprived as the respondent households themselves. The above findings provide some support for the argument about the diversity of urban patrons and the varied control over valuable resources that emerge from this (Nelson 1979). betting shop and removal company owners). often the male spouse. Consumption – Social capital was found to have two distinct uses in the households’ consumption practices. The urban patrons that they used for this purpose were owners of small or medium-scale businesses in the formal or informal sector (e. whether these households were relatively better off than those which did not enter such relationships of subordination is another matter. He says ‘this task is urgent’. and came to work for them once again. It was used: (1) to obtain free © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG . It is clear that cliente list relationships provided some households with an opportunity for employment. civil engineers and doctors). We do not calculate our five. the 44 per cent of the households. they compelled the clients to accept unfavourable conditions of work dictated by their patrons or to respond to their other demands in the hope of keeping their current employment or obtaining future work. However. cliente list contacts were found to be more beneficial when the patron was not the employer of his own enterprise but a professional who mediated access to a relatively favourable position in the public sector. It may hence be inferred that those who used cliente list contacts in finding their jobs did not necessarily attain a better status as compared with those who simply used their reciprocal contacts. and (2) the increased desperation for work in circumstances of economic crisis. The limited contribution of cliente list contacts seems also to be associated with: (1) the majority of patrons being of employer status in the private sector. In fact. taxi. professionals in the public or private sector (e. I mean. On the other hand. This still meant that a considerable number of client and non-clients suffered from moderate to high levels of deprivation at work by settling for low paid jobs with long working hours and limited or no access to pension and/or medical services.g. this route was open only to the lucky few. As a matter of fact. we [work] until 7:45 and sometimes half an hour or an hour more. advance payments. which deserves particular attention since these ties connect poor households with people in positions of power. high levels of unemployment and saturation in the informal labour market. that used cliente list contacts. had the least deprived conditions of work.g. in my view. My research revealed a moderate tendency for households where at least one of the working members found his or her current job through cliente list contacts to display reduced levels of work-related deprivation. they were able to provide her with a quite favourable position in the labour market. If we stop working at 5:30 or 7:30. Our neck is bent to everything even if they beat or swear.g. However. used their cliente list contacts in finding regular or casual work. An extract from an interview with an employee of a medium-sized metal factory illustrates some of the costs involved: MY: We [I] bent our [my] neck [debased myself] to everything.THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION affluent part of the city. and to a much lesser extent. The following analyses will focus on the role of cliente list contacts in job attainment. second hand goods and loans). This meant that it was the subordinates who incurred the costs of cliente list transactions. The small improvement cliente list contacts 47 made on work-related deprivation may well be linked to the control of the patrons over less valuable resources. these circumstances reduced the incentive of these patrons to deliver favours to their clients in return for their loyalty. at least one working member. The cliente list transactions that took place between the two parties were based on trust and hence middle to long-term acquaintance. when necessary. The clients gave their loyalty in return for employment and other past or future benefits (e. We don’t say ‘but we have our break’. On the one hand. compared with the 25 per cent of those households that did not. this explains only part of the picture. The patrons also benefited from these transactions as the loyalty of their clients meant commitment to getting the job done properly. ten minutes or one hour. However. In 41 per cent of the households studied.

we wouldn’t know what borrowing did mean. fuel for wood burner). I would rather hypothesise that social capital is likely to make little difference to ‘consumptionsmoothing’ (i. even though the households gained some free access to goods and services by using their social capital. what can you expect from them? You can borrow and lend only. .e. home maintenance and to a lesser extent in clothing. people are frying by their own oil [i. just about able to look after themselves]. we give it back when we borrow.13 for 47 per cent in access to information on asset . goods and services was rather limited. and (3) irregular in nature. One striking finding concerns rural food support. The account of a female spouse from a ‘better off’ household confirms this trend: Interviewer: Has anyone provided you with food support lately? KX: We borrow and lend. Not any longer.g. goods and services. Obviously. house maintenance and transportation.g.48 access to labour.e. But in the past we used to say ‘just take it’ but not anymore . Since we do not have any. none of the households were able to avoid having to cut back or go without certain consumption items that they deemed critical to deprivation. those who are deeply rooted in their village. Also the gecekondu environment is a poor environment . However. . bread. Thus. maintaining consumption levels prior to economic crisis). Although 59 per cent had food sent by their relatives still living in the village. as opposed to those of health. The major labour contributions of social capital were observed in food processing activities that helped households combat winter decline in the seasonal labour market and/or high winter food prices. the villages stopped it. flour and home cooked meals). Had we ever used to pay for the bulgur wheat in the past? We used to go to the village to make and bring some. this meant © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU little improvement on deprivation as their access was: (1) restricted to a few areas of expenditure. we would give it to each other. This way. (2) limited in quality and quantity. The second use of social capital to buy commodities cheaply and/or flexibly was apparent in all areas of expenditure. which was once significant. those with mothers and very close relatives in the village. other than this no . We are all the same. it seems that the capacity of social capital to counterbalance income shortfalls by virtue of its role in free or cheap access to labour. Investment – The households studied were found to rely on their stocks of social capital extensively in building up assets. the households were able to remove some pressure on their income. who would do it for us? Overall. for 53 per cent in the organisation of güns. For 65 per cent of households. . clothing. and (2) to purchase commodities cheaply and/or flexibly. Such adverse patterns of consumption were indeed observed across the sample to considerable degrees. the other also goes and brings some. I cannot resent anyone. In this way. I used to go to the village to bring some. for the majority. This is indicative of a drastic decline in a source of support. . Now. contrary to past conclusions (Carter & Maluccio 2003). everybody is like how I am. housing. . it proved useful in the direct supply of the asset (e. On the whole. The first use of social capital was more evident in the areas of food (e. It involved for instance. Interviewer: How was it in the past then? KX: We used to be so different towards each other. education. There’s no one who’d say ‘I’ll give a plate from the food my husband brought from the village’.g. The supply of labour for demanding tasks such as seasonal bread making was maintained among a group of households on the basis of balanced reciprocity. or at least spread the pressure over a longer period of time. Free access to the labour resources of social contacts was however a more common occurrence. only a few households had access to bulk supplies of rural food and even this access was irregular in character. Interviewer: So you mean there used to be a lot more [food] coming from the village? KX: It used to be a lot. though. . household items and utilities (e. The additional labour power obtained was put to use in self-provisioning activities that took place in the areas of food. households were able to cut the costs involved in self-provisioning to a small degree. through inheritance). and paying in instalments without incurring extra costs. buying on credit from local shop owners who knew and trusted the households. There are some who still do.

social capital most often acted as an informal lender which supplied loans for the purchase of assets. for example. to which 56 per cent of spouses attached little value in terms of reducing deprivation. for 41 per cent in the supply of loans. it hardly helped remove the pressure on income or existing assets. 268 million to 5.6 billion old Turkish Liras). This seems to be ignored by scholars who argue that informal credit opportunities enable the poor to cope with unpredictable incomes (Dercon 2002). Only 24 per cent of households owned assets which had a considerable benefit delivery capacity and/or which significantly reduced pressure on their incomes. However. Let us now elaborate on these points. fearing that their limited earnings might not allow them to meet the repayment schedule. as the limited and/or irregular nature of their earnings raised doubts as to their creditworthiness. Previous studies reported such concerns as a major reason as to why borrowings via social capital are less of an option for these households (Moser 1996.g. and for those who avoided formal institutions. Overall.191 (i. (2) further asset accumulation. and this may explain why some had to resort to what I call ‘debt chaining’. amounting to six times the mean monthly household income. gold and foreign ˙ currency (TÜIK 2002). and/or (3) other forms of security (e. However. for 12 per cent in the supply of monetary gifts towards the purchase of the asset. These households owned one of the following assets: work equipment (i. Second. tenure security). for 24 per cent in the provision of labour and material support for the actual making of the asset (e. Gonzales de la Rocha 2001). First.g. gecekondu). neighbours and friends. It © 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG . the debts grew well above the inflation rate as the financial market conditions offered investors high real returns on deposit account. squatter housing and a plot in the periphery. Debt chaining is a rather ineffective way of managing debts because the debts essentially remain unpaid. Despite the variety of its contributions to asset acquisition. social capital borrowings tended to leave households with a considerable pressure to make the necessary repayments. such schedules did not always have the level of flexibility required by the households.647 (i. CONCLUSION This paper has advanced both conceptual and empirical claims about social capital. its impact on reducing their deprivation tends to be limited since their social capital resources had little capacity to provide access to ‘beneficial assets’ without putting incomes under significant pressure. Household incomes obviously came under no pressure where the assets were supplied for free. the assets involved had limited benefit delivery capacity in terms of ensuring: (1) further income generation. However. As shown above.THE IRRELEVANCE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL IN EXPLAINING DEPRIVATION availability and conditions of purchase. Debts were created in the form of gold or foreign currency to protect the initial value of the loan against inflation. it was argued that social capital can be used as a metaphor for one’s investment in social relationships for expected returns.2 billion old Turkish Liras). a large part of the assets households acquired in this way were comprised of inherited rural land. Moreover. As a matter of fact. but should be defined neutrally to accommodate the possibility that these expectations remain partially or fully unmet. social capital might in fact help counteract such uncertainty. It might be true that social capital made asset ownership possible for those who lacked the ability to obtain a loan from a formal institution. 86 per cent of the households which still had asset-related debts in April borrowed the money required from their relatives. by directly supplying assets. there are limits to this activity due to concerns regarding the creditworthiness of poor households. This is no surprise given the lack of demand for this type of land and its limited potential for profit.e. although social capital was used by poor households in asset acquisition. four stands in a bazaar and a truck).e. even in cases where it did. between April and October. This response involved borrowing from one contact in order pay the debts to a previous contact. ranging from USr201 to USr4.e. social capital was of limited help in two respects. However. 2. or are realised at a certain cost. The mean asset-related debts were USr1. and finally. By providing a flexible repayment sched- 49 ule over a relatively long period of time. Most of these debts were considerable in size. In response to wider debates concerning the applicability of this concept to social phenomena.

economic inability to reciprocate. Borrowing practices are subsumed either under consumption or investment behaviour. The findings from this study challenge the conventional wisdom about social capital by demonstrating that size of social capital is less important than other forces on deprivation (e.50 was also argued that the generic problem with the indiscriminate use of the term in social capital research stems from the failure of the existing theoretical frameworks to offer a clearcut and empirically operationalisable definition for the concept. Furthermore. a new distinction was drawn between reciprocal and power-based forms of social capital. which made it possible to prepare the earlier drafts for publication. It was also shown that having greater social capital made no significant difference to the attainment of a better status in the urban labour market. An effective solution to this problem should rather involve providing adequate social welfare and improving the conditions in the labour market. School of Social Policy and Social Research at the University of Kent and Overseas Research Students Award Scheme for funding my PhD study upon which this paper is based. I am thankful for the funding from the ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme. households or families.. the study has examined the role of social capital in the lives of poor gecekondu households in order to understand the actual contribution of this resource to reducing their deprivation. Finally. Even the engagement in powerbased relationships with urban patrons did not lead to better jobs for the majority of households which were dependent on them. the model considers insurance as an area that is rather distinct from investment. In fact. (3) enable regular access to essential goods and services. cultural and economic capital is more dynamic than the model suggests given the convertibility of three forms of capital to each other (Bourdieu 1986). declining real incomes. Though not taken up in this paper. It is likely that the economic crisis environment in Turkey characterised by increased unemployment. One key conclusion that can be drawn from these findings is that social capital has little capacity to help the low-income urban households meet the needs they deem critical to maintaining a decent life. pride and concern for financial independence). had an effect on overall out© 2009 by the Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG ˘ S ¸EBNEM EROGLU comes by further reducing the job chances as well as the financial ability of poor households to fulfil the obligations of social exchange. competitive attitudes. much of which has become legalised throughout the 1980s. Acknowledgements I acknowledge the valuable feedback I have received from Professor Chris Pickvance on successive drafts of this article.g. by allowing a focus on how norms of reciprocity and relationships of subordination affect the flow of benefits and hence deprivation. . Furthermore. based on the theories of social exchange of Blau (1964) and Sahlins (1974). The model demonstrates a potential set of household resources owned at one particular point in time. Empirically. Gecekondu means built overnight in Turkish. Notes 1. This paper has sought to address this problem by confining social capital to those contacts whose relatively durable identity is recognised by the individuals. (2) counteract income shortfalls. I thank the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies. it was shown that despite the widespread use of social capital for income generation. this resource played a limited role in reducing deprivation because the stocks of social capital possessed by the majority had little capacity to: (1) give access to better jobs. most livelihood research neither uses poverty measurement nor relies on income as a proxy. These theories were claimed to offer a sound basis for understanding the ‘downside of social capital’. depending on their purpose. 3. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees for their comments. doubts about credibility. Poverty in urban areas cannot therefore be tackled effectively by assuming that social capital will offer the poor a lifeline. 2. Any remaining errors belong to the author. 4. and/ or (4) supply assets with a significant potential for income generation or further asset accumulation. Furthermore. worsening conditions of work. etc. It should however be acknowledged that the relationship between social. originally referring to urban squatter housing. for example. consumption and investment purposes.

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