Navigating the Institutional Context in Late Life: The Function of Social Capital in Chilean Older People

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 7:15 PM
Room: Booth 40
Distributed Paper
Maria-Jose TORREJON , Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Some authors indicate that we should understand the macro processes affecting  the social relations of older people in the context of the ‘accentuated modernization’, which makes reference to the loss of influence of traditional social structures and communities in individuals’ lives and the greater responsibility that the individual has in shaping her or his life course. This description is in line with what has been defined as ‘individualization’ of modern society. In an individualized society individuals must constantly make decisions to conduct their biographies, which are no more—or at least not only— constrained by traditional and unquestionable assumptions and values. However, these biographies do not completely rest in free decisions because individuals can and must choose within the guidelines and norms imposed by the state, the market, law, education, etc. in order to manage risk. Some variants of this theory have mentioned the importance of personal ties in developing countries since they operate as key resources to be re-embedded into society and even as a central mechanism for social inclusion. Taking some elements of the New Institutional Analysis to analyze the current Chilean social policy on aging and in-depth interviews with Chilean people of 60-75 years old living in the city of Santiago, I examine how older people use their personal relationships to navigate their institutional context. I investigate whether the social policy on aging is related to the needs and resources of the older population and how individuals solve the gaps using the social capital embedded within their personal networks. This social capital can be used, for instance, to access to different types of support that are not provided by the policy instruments and to obtain help and information to negotiate with the public organizations.