Social Capital in Thailand: Unraveling the Myths of Rural-Urban Divide

ผู้เขียน: Surichai Wun'Gaeo, Surangrut Jumnianpol, Sayamol Charoenratana and Nithi Nuangjamnong


Although the concept of social capital has been firmly established in the international academic community for about two decades since the seminal work of Robert Putnam, its importation onto Thai soil is relatively new and happened under quite peculiar circumstances. Ironically, the key actors who helped make this concept popular were not academic scholars but practitioners from the World Bank in collaboration with the Thai government that sought support from international actors to help rescue its bankrupt economy as a result of the 1997 financial crisis (Jumnianpol, 2007). Since then, the concept has taken firm root in Thai development policy circles and has been subject to a process of localization into a Thai context. It has been deployed along with the dominant local development discourses, especially the sufficiency economy, in the 9th and 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan. The official endorsement, in turn, affects the fortune of social capital studies in Thailand in that it sets the tone of the so-called orthodox study of social capital. Most studies in this tradition are policy-oriented seeking to explore the benign effects and benefits of social capital to
socio-economic and political development such as crime prevention, resources management, public health, community strengthening and democratic culture.

The discourse of social capital has not only been promoted by international actors together with government agencies, but has also resonated with NGOs who have a romantic vision of the past rural community in harmony and seek to rebuild and strengthen community ties that have been steadily eroded as a result of the modernization process (Srisupan, 2007). Even