Understanding Civic Engagement in Asia: The Role of Social Capital

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Harris KIM , Sociology, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
The question of “who participates” has received a great deal of scholarly attention among political sociologists. Increasingly, students of political participation, both formal and informal, have relied on the concept of social capital- defined in terms of trust, networks, norms of reciprocity, and organizational membership (Putnam 1993)- in analyzing the conditions under which people choose to engage in political activities instead of opting to ride free on the efforts of others. As Jacobs and Skocpol (2005) point out in Inequality and American Democracy, equal political voice and democratically responsive governments are under increasing threat due to the declining level of political interest and participation on the part of individual citizens. Understanding why some people decide to engage in politics formally and informally, therefore, is of paramount importance not only for the US but for any democratic nation. This study proposes to investigate this topic in the context of Asian countries. Based on the multilevel analysis of the Asian Barometer Survey of Democracy, Governance and Development (2006), which consists of data on 13 countries in Asia, it examines how and to what extent various social capital indicators (i.e., generalized and institutional trust, participation in voluntary associations, and network size) influence the likelihood of engaging in political activities, while controlling for key socio-demographic factors (i.e., income, gender, education, age, and religion). Four outcome variables are examined: two formal (voting and contacting an elected official) and two informal (attending a lawful demonstration and discussing politics in social settings). Findings from hierarchical linear modeling reveal that social capital is associated with different political outcomes in complex ways, at both individual and contextual (country) levels. Theoretical implications of the quantitative results are discussed in relation to earlier findings in the extant literature.