An Exploration of Industry Transformation, Community, and Social Capital
In this study we take a social capital perspective to examine how rural families living in small and relatively isolated communities have managed their own 'social balancing acts' in the context of rapid industry change. In 1958 Hannah Arendt published "The Human Condition", contending that there are three types of action required in being “fully human”. The first two, engagement in family life and paid work, are necessary for human existence. The third, she called vita activa, or public life; a life that is actioned within jointly built civil spaces. Within these spaces as human beings, we are capable of debate; we share actions; we resolve collective dilemmas. A half a century on, public policy continues to debate aspects of vita activa, or public life. Whatever the issues, the question still arises as how best to collectively proceed? How do individuals, families and communities continue to struggle with their own ‘social balancing acts’ while actively and effectively building, responding to, and sharing in the accumulated wealth of public ‘goods’? This study examines the features of social life and aspects of the social structure that assist rural families negotiate the effects of rapid social and economic change. In South Westland, New Zealand, the closure of the old growth timber industry alongside rapid growth of the dairy and tourism sectors constitutes such change. A social capital perspective has allowed us to examine how families bring balance between aspects of the three actions defined by Arendt as essential to “the human condition”; that is, paid work, community commitments, and family life. Finally we reflect on the contribution of this balance to rural social wellbeing.
Keywords: Social Capital, Vita Activa, Rural Industry Transition, Rural Families, New Zealand
Colin G. Goodrich
Senior Lecturer, School of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Canterbury
Kaylene A. Sampson
Researcher, School of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Canterbury