Rural Families, Industry Change and Social Capital: Some Considerations for Policy

In: Social Issues

Submitted By anejfo129
Words 2696
Pages 11
In New Zealand’s Westland District the closure of the local indigenous timber industry alongside rapid growth of the dairy and tourism sectors has produced dilemmas for families and communities as they attempt to adjust to the social consequences of rapid industry change. Drawing on a social capital perspective and a case study of 12 Westland families, this project examines how rural families bring balance to aspects of the three actions defined by Arendt as being essential to “the human condition”: family, work and community life. The findings reveal significant insights into how social capital is effectively reproduced in times of change. These insights are discussed in terms of their social policy implications.

Fifty years ago Hannah Arendt (1958) published The Human Condition. In this work she contended that there are three types of action required to be “fully human”. The first two of these actions, engagement in family life and paid work, are necessary for human existence in contemporary society. The third action she called vita activa, or public life: a life that is actioned within jointly built civil spaces. Within these spaces we are capable of debate, we share actions and we resolve collective dilemmas (Arendt 1958). Arendt reminds us that the absence of, or over-attention to, any one aspect of the human condition is likely to be problematic.

A half a century on from Arendt’s original thesis, public policy continues to debate aspects of vita activa and democratic governments still seek to engage vita activa in economically and socially productive ways. Working out the shifting balance between family life, paid work and vita activa is a crucial aspect of responding effectively to significant social change, be it local issues (such as natural disaster relief) or meeting the challenges that arise as a consequence of external or global…...

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