Social Resilience and Social Capital

The role of social capital demonstrated in the studies on climate change provides the contribution of different forms of social capital in resilience-building strategies (
Azad and Pritchard, 2023; Hagedoorn et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2021). It was also noted that the process or phenomenon that interprets how social capital shape resilience and interconnect multiple dimensions of social interactions is rarely explored (Aldrich and Meyer, 2015; Carmen et al., 2022; Rockenbauch and Sakdapolrak, 2017). The relatively new concept of social resilience is intriguing because of the theoretical space that it provides for social dimensions of resilience and spatial dimensions of social capital.

Social capital provides the channels to access and exchange resources through the social organization of support networking. Social organization, in this connection, is a vital human action that facilitates the human capacity to absorb, withstand and recover from a crisis (
Keim, 2008). While researchers employ various theoretical approaches to explore and explain the role of social capital during and after the crisis, the social dimensions of resilience (embedded in the conceptualization of social capital) need attention.

The resilience building strategies are constituted through a direct relationship between resilience and all forms of social capital (i.e., economic (money, property, assets, etc.), social (network, relationship, social ties, etc.), cultural (norms, trust, reciprocity, etc.), and political (policy, governance, political engagement, etc.) capital). It is also evident in these strategies that social participation and practices are inclusive, and diversity is seen as a strength in the social processes of creating and fostering productive social networks. Overall, the emphasis is on connecting people and institutes to integrate psychological and social resources for the contextualized understanding of the crisis and shared execution of intervention plans. In this connection, three approaches provide substantial knowledge to study climate change, its impact, and social dimensions of resilience: 1) the social capital approach, 2) the social psychological approach, and 3) the right-based approach.

Social Capital Approach:
The structural foundation for social capital is provided by the interconnection of bonding (close relationships within a group or community, such as family, relatives, friends, and neighbours), bridging (among-groups interactions and connections between groups or communities), and linking (connecting organizations, institutions, and the state for institutionalized support and power).

Social Psychological Approach:
The social psychological approach is linked to cognitive aspects of social capital (such as social identity, reciprocity, altruistic behaviour, sense of responsibility, and shared knowledge of risk and responsibility) that contribute to collective psycho-social resources (
Whitley and McKenzie, 2005). A shared understanding of adversity, trust, and reciprocity within the community all contribute to the development of shared narratives and shared goals (Uphoff, 2000). Through shared identification and solidarity, the social identity approach (which is more common in social psychology) informs about collective psycho-social resilience. The emphasis of social psychology on individual and group behaviour provides a bottom-up approach to community resilience (Ntontis et al., 2020). Tighter social norms (of togetherness) and greater reinforcement of these norms, on the other hand, are viewed as internal resources for resilience in this approach.
Human Rights-Based Approach:
The human rights-based approach educates about the social dimension of resilience through the lens of equity and power, as well as the narratives that normalize inequality and marginalization. Human rights are the rights of people regardless of their status, position, belongingness, or any other characteristics that may distinguish them and lead to discrimination regarding provision, protection, and participation in their socioeconomic context (
McInerney-Lankford and Sano, 2010). According to this perspective, human vulnerability and resilience are shaped by socially, culturally, and politically established statuses and power relations that influence decision-making, control, and resource access. The framing of social capital in power relations, locus of power, and social network represents resilience practices accounting for issues of equity and power. In this regard, the two aspects of resilience practices are linked. First, recognize and respond to deep-rooted narratives that normalize inequality and marginalization. Second, the transformation toward more equitable political and social arrangements (Artur and Hilhorst, 2012; Ensor et al., 2018; Granderson, 2014). The right-based approach connects the recognition of deep-seated discrimination with the transformation of an equitable socio-political system, intending to achieve social sustainability and well-being.

To survive and thrive in environmental threats, communal solidarity requires the social interconnectedness formed by all three forms of social capital integrating social system, social values, reciprocal engagement, and inclusive social actions.

Social Resilience and Social Capital: A Triangular Perspective

The three approaches to frame social capital in the context of climate change are interconnected and built on one another to investigate and comprehend the social dimension of resilience. The social capital approach provides an explicit resource network that extends from 'in-group' to 'among-groups' and is linked to a larger social network or support organizations and institutions. The social psychological approach interprets and connects the internalized sense of shared risk and responsibility to collective identification and belongingness. This method is useful for understanding the psycho-social process that underpins in-group solidarity and collective resilience. The social capital approach and social-psychological approach facilitate the process of resilience simultaneously by providing psychological and social resources. Hence, the two approaches remain intact and interdependent going through crisis over time.

The right-based approach is appealing because it employs two concurrent processes to investigate resilience. First, it reveals the structural formation of inequalities based on socially and culturally situated power status. Second, is the transformation process, which leads to inclusive participation, empowerment, and access to resource access. Though rarely used in studies (as compared to the other two approaches), the right-based approach significantly addresses empowerment with equality to create social connections for shared social interests and communal needs. In this sense, to survive and thrive in environmental threats, communal solidarity requires the social interconnectedness that can be formed by using all three forms of social capital integrating social system, social values, reciprocal engagement, and inclusive social actions. Hence, these different theoretical lenses to study resilience may contribute to a more holistic understanding of individual and community responses to environmental threats. This review proposes combining these approaches to investigate social sustainability and resilience in the context of climate change.

Hence, the theoretical triangulation (of social capital, psycho-social, and right-based approach) that I proposed in this article is broadly based on the two aspects of social resilience.

  • Social resilience, as a social process, interconnects the different dimensions of social capital.
  • Social dimensions of resilience are anchored in environmental changes and their societal impact.


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