Global Social Welfare

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 233–246 | Cite as

Assessing Social Engagement in Unstable Environments: an Examination of Collective Action in Mexico



This study utilizes Social Capital Theory to explore the differential effects of (1) social capital, (2) violence, and (3) political engagement on (a) collective action and (b) willingness to help the community in Mexico, a context of enduring violence. Survey data collected in 2011 is used to understand the identified relationships (N = 7416). A number of statistical procedures including correlation and regression analyses using ordinary least squares (OLS) with nested models are utilized. Results show that mobilizing for collective action is influenced by contextual and political factors. Using contextual measures better explain active social engagement in violence-prone locations. Results also indicate the convenience of including this perspective in social interventions that promote local autonomy. Social capital in its trust form revealed contrasting effects on collective action. Further, fear and violence appear to influence willingness to mobilize. The examination of the relation between levels of trust and law compliance revealed the potential contribution of social disobedience on policy implementation. Implications for social interactions in unstable environments and Mexico in particular are presented. The role of local processes (e.g., leadership, practices and collective memories) are most likely to reinforce positive social capital and create effective social change.


Social engagement Collective action Violent conflict Social capital Mexico 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociopolitical and Legal StudiesInstituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de OccidenteTlaquepaqueMexico
  2. 2.School of Social WorkBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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