Social capital, trust, and collective action in post-earthquake Nepal

Abstract

According to the first generation of theories of collective action, utility-maximizing individuals encountering conditions of nonexcludability and nonrivalry free ride rather than cooperate as their dominant strategy. But scholars have documented innumerable successful and unsuccessful collective action efforts after disasters around the world that contradict that idea. We square the findings of disaster research with the second generation of collective action research by demonstrating how important social capital is for understanding voluntary collective action. We apply structural equation modeling and mediation analysis to data we collected from Sindhupalchowk, Nepal, after its 2015 earthquake to show that bonding social capital has the mediated effect of engendering mutual trust and in turn enabling collective action. Further, we demonstrate direct effects of both bonding and bridging/linking social capital on collective action following disasters. We portray social capital as essential in enabling self-governance and fostering resilience in postdisaster scenarios in which the collective burdens of reconstruction and recovery necessitate concerted efforts on the part of the private sector, citizens, and public institutions.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Only one qualitative study exists on this topic (Devkota et al. 2016). Its analysis is based on a tiny sample size of N = 33.

  2. 2.

    Related studies investigate households’ coping responses and social entrepreneurship in post-earthquake Nepal (for example, Rayamajhee et al. 2019, 2020; Raut 2020).

  3. 3.

    Aldrich (2012a) lists many cases from around the world in which communities engage in collective action efforts after major disasters.

  4. 4.

    Smith writes that, besides the self-interested motivations that guide us, we have a natural inclination to subject ourselves to the “tribunal of the impartial spectator—the man (woman) within the breast”— “whose jurisdiction is founded on the desire of praise-worthiness, and in the aversion of blame-worthiness” (Smith 1982, 130–131).

  5. 5.

    We can view these mechanisms as different forms of social capital. Ostrom and Ahn (2008a) call the three forms institutions, networks, and trustworthiness, respectively.

  6. 6.

    See Torsvik (2000) for more on the mechanisms by which social capital relates to economic outcomes. Rayamajhee and Bohara (2019a, b) study them in the context of Nepal.

  7. 7.

    The data collection was part of a research project entitled “Determinants of Household Resilience against Natural Disaster Shocks: Pre-post and Ex-post Analyses of the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal.” It assessed the immediate impacts of the 2015 Nepal earthquake on households and studied households’ coping responses.

  8. 8.

    Details provided on request.

  9. 9.

    Nepal was the world’s only Hindu kingdom before it became a secular state in 2008.

  10. 10.

    The flow diagrams in panels A and B illustrate how we calculated these effects. Paths A (A1 and A2) represent the effect of social capital (of any type) on trust, while paths B (B1 and B2) connect trust and collective action. Paths C (C1 and C2) represent the direct  links from social capital to collective action. Indirect effects of specific types of social capital take paths A–B and are calculated as the product of these two effects (direct effect = A*B). The total effect is the sum of the direct (C) and indirect (A*B) effects. That is, total effect = A*B + C.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5, 6, and 7.

Table 5 Principal component analysis results for social capital (varimax rotation)
Table 6 SEM results with alternate variance–covariance structures for robustness checks
Table 7 Generalized SEM results

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Rayamajhee, V., Bohara, A.K. Social capital, trust, and collective action in post-earthquake Nepal. Nat Hazards 105, 1491–1519 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04363-4

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Keywords

  • Disasters
  • Collective action
  • Social capital
  • Trust
  • Resilience
  • Nepal